By Ashley Dunkak


All this attention makes Detroit Lions backup wide receiver and special teams guy Matt Willis more than a little uncomfortable.

“I like to be sort of in the background,” Willis said. “I don’t have a whole lot to say. I’m not a big guy for attention, so it’s a little strange at times.”

If Willis keeps catching passes and trying activities like obstacle course reality TV show American Ninja Warrior, though, he might be in the spotlight for some time.

He snagged three passes for 51 yards Friday night, in the Lions’ first preseason game. Willis was the second most productive receiver that game after Calvin Johnson.

For Willis to make the team, though, he will have to be good at more than catching passes.

“It’s going to be everything,” Willis said. “It’s going to be offense, special teams, if they said, ‘Play defense,’ and I had to show up and do that, it’s that. Whatever I’m called upon is what I’ll have to show and excel at.”

“Being a versatile player is you’ve got to know how to fill in and be, when you’re called upon, be that guy that can fill in,” Willis continued. “That’s been my role so far in my career.”

Willis, who attended UCLA and has spent six seasons in the NFL, has improvement on the brain, and the thought of being able to compete better motivates him.

“There’s a few things on special teams, a few things offensively,” Willis said. “It just makes you hungry and makes you want to go work so that you can play as close to a perfect game as you can.”

As far as his brief moment of television fame, Willis had little to say.

“I am not a ninja, no martial arts background,” Willis said. “It’s been years since I’ve done it. It was a great experience for me, and that was that.”


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