March 12, 2024

Willis Helping Develop Next Class of Canadian Football Players

EDMONTON, AB – The ‘Mayor of Commonwealth’ is looking for recruits.

Odell Willis one of many popular EE alumni who remains tied to the Edmonton community, having become a Canadian citizen and laying down roots in the city. He wrapped up his CFL career back in 2021 with 101 career sacks and helped bring the 2015 Grey Cup Trophy to the City of Champions.

In retirement, he is turning his attention to the next generation of Canadian football players through his gym Athletes Compound. Willis is looking to share his expertise as a former recruited college and pro athlete by hosting a High School Football Showcase on March 23, with the intent of helping connect Canadian high school players with scouts from NCAA colleges.

“The showcase came about because I opened my own gym, Athletes Compound, and I’m just seeing a lot of kids with a lot of talent that could play down south, but they’re not really being pushed or being exposed to how to really get down there,” Willis said. “So I’m like, you know what, why not let me step in and do what I do?”

Willis says that last year he saw kids he works with receive offers from Division II school University of Tuskegee and a couple others receive committable offers to Missouri Valley College. The hope is this year, with a bigger showcase and more eyes, there will be even more opportunities for Canadian kids to play down south and develop into the next generation of Northern football talent.

“That’s what it’s all about. A lot of kids, they want the D-1 offers, but they’ve got to understand D-1 is basically professional football now, those kids are getting paid,” Willis said. “The new D-1 is FCS and Division II because all they’re doing is picking kids out the transfer portal that have played and bringing them up.

“So my thing is let me get these Canadian kids that can play somewhere in the States where they’ll get an opportunity. I mean, you don’t want a kid to go to a Clemson and just be there at Clemson just to say he went because is he really going to get a chance to play? No. You want to send that kid to a lower school somewhere where you know he going to play, he gets the experience, and then in 1-2 years he moves up.”

The camps coaches will have a heavy Green & gold contingent with former EE receivers Adarius Bowman, Shamawd Chambers, and Devon Bailey joining a group of about 10 coaches. Willis is trying to make this event a staple in not only the Edmonton community, but eventually a Nationwide event. The former All-Star D-lineman has also tried to remove as many barriers for entry, by making the showcase potentially free for those willing to submit a 500-word essay.

“I plan on this being a yearly thing and I want it to grow bigger and bigger,” Willis said. “The thing is, the kids are like, ‘Coach, they ain’t coming up here.’ Well, I got them to come up here. ‘Coach, when we do stuff like this, it’s expensive.’ Well, guess what? I’ve got enough sponsors that all they have to do now is write a good 500 word essay and showcase can be free for them. So it’s no excuses for them not to bring their kids out or for the kids not to come out to get this once in a lifetime opportunity, because who else up here bringing up coaches to see these kids?”

For more details on the Canadian High School Football Showcase click HERE.