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Jedrick Wills Jr. was born to play football, and his mother made sure he did

Alabama offensive lineman Jedrick Wills Jr.
(Joe Robbins / Getty Images)

The Times examines the top prospects ahead of the NFL draft, to be held April 23-25.

Maybe all those other parents, increasingly wary of subjecting their children to the dangers of the sport, had it backward.

Her son afraid of football? No, the mother wouldn’t allow it. Football needed to be afraid of Jedrick Wills Jr.

“I was bigger than everybody else, so my mom kind of threw me in there,” Wills recalled at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. “She was like, ‘You’re playing football no matter what.’ ”

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Anyone who saw the young boy could understand why. He had nearly gone from the womb to walking, his mother, Sivi, once told the Kentucky High School Athletic Assn., scurrying around the family home at only 5 months old. He was playing football by age 7 and pummeling his peers soon after that thanks to his massive body and nimble feet.

Now he’s all grown up, or he better be, at 6 feet 4 and 312 pounds.

The Times examines the top prospects ahead of the 2020 NFL draft, to be held April 23-25.

The offensive tackle who is projected as a top 10 pick in the NFL draft hit defenders so hard in high school that their chin straps would come unbuckled and their helmets would fly into the air. He also had a habit of blocking overmatched linemen all the way out of bounds, leading to comical film sessions in which coaches would see Wills driving some poor soul out of the camera frame.

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His quickness allowed him to double as a shooting guard on his high school basketball team, though it was his size that made him a matchup nightmare.

“I would put my head down and go to the basket, and everybody would just move out the way,” Wills said. “It would just open up for me.”

Wills gave up basketball once the avalanche of football recruiting letters convinced him of his future path. He spurned his hometown Kentucky Wildcats and headed to Alabama, where he became a second-team All-American while protecting left-handed quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s blind side as a right tackle.

His next stop is the NFL, lest his many gifts lead him to a rival sport.

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Oklahoma star Kenneth Murray Jr., one of the top inside linebackers in the 2020 NFL draft, learned to be a leader and more while helping raise three siblings with special needs.

“He has basketball-caliber foot quickness and the quick hands of a boxer, and all of it is wrapped in a stout, powerful package of bad intentions,” wrote NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein in a draft analysis. “His game is tailor-made for the NFL, and his range of success is good starter to All-Pro.”

There has been some debate about what position Wills will play at the next level. He started every game in his three college seasons at right tackle but reportedly has been targeted by some suitors as a guard because he’s a tad shorter than they would like. Those slotting Wills as a tackle point to his arm length of 34¼ inches that is comparable to taller counterparts.

Other measurables illustrate his potential success at any spot: He posted the second-best vertical jump for an offensive lineman at 34½ inches and the sixth-best 40-yard-dash time at 5.05 seconds.

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Wills said he’ll play anywhere in the NFL, and his mother would certainly approve, so long as he plays.


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