Devon Willis has done a wonderful job representing Schalmont High School with his athletic accomplishments, classroom work and humble demeanor.
Someday, the 18-year-old senior would like to represent the United States.
“I’ve thought about the Olympics since I was little,” said Willis. “It’s always been a dream.”
Willis believes he’s found a guy who can help him in his pursuit of that grand stage in University at Albany track and field coach Roberto Vives.
Willis signed his official letter of intent Thursday to compete for the Great Danes of the America East Conference. He will receive a full athletic scholarship, and study kinesiology.
“He’s been coaching for a long time,” Willis said of Vives. “I’ve learned about his background, and he produces great athletes, Olympians. My goal is to get to the Olympics.”
Willis, who won the state Division II triple jump title last June, made official visits to UAlbany, Penn State, Rhode Island and Buffalo.
“I really like the way coach Vives vibed with me and my family,” said Willis. “At Albany, they’re very family-oriented, and I like that. I’ve always been all about the team.”
“We talked to different track and field coaches,” said Melissa Willis, Devon’s mom. “With coach Vives, there was a different feel. He stood out among the rest.”
Willis said he’s through playing football after a sensational four-year scholastic career. Schalmont’s career rushing leader helped the Sabres win four league titles and three Section II championships. This past season, the Sabres made it to the state Class B final for the second time in four years.
“During football season, the letters rolled in, and at first, it was a little stressful. Me and my dad weighed things out and figured out what would be in my best interest,” said Willis, a three-time Daily Gazette All-Area first-teamer. “As far as football, I kind of retired. I hung up my cleats, hung up my helmet. I’ll leave that up to my little brother, Sean.”
Willis said the plan for his freshman year at UAlbany is to focus on the triple jump and high hurdles. He placed first in the hurdles at the recent Colonial Council Championships, and on that same day, he added another school record to his list with a winning 6-foot-6 leap in the high jump.
“That was the first time I did the high jump in a year and a half,” said Willis. “My best before that was 6-4.”
“Sometimes, he just comes out of the woodwork,” said Willis’ mom. “He amazes me sometimes.”
Willis is doing double duty this winter as a member of the Schalmont basketball team. The 6-1, 175-pound forward scored a season-high 13 points in a win over Fonda-Fultonville Tuesday.
“I never played high school ball. I played in the park and at the Boys and Girls club,” said Willis. “I’m looking at it as another workout for my legs. I wanted to mix it up. I’m trying to have fun with the little time I have left.”
Willis will compete in the triple jump, high hurdles and 800 relay at today’s Section II Division III championship meet at UAlbany.