I did not intently start following UB Football until 2005. During a game against Rutgers UB starting quarterback Stewart Sampsel went down to injury and true freshman Drew Willy took over. Willy had been engaged in spot duty throughout the game but from that point on he was the future of UB Football.
Next year Turner Gill would take over the program and under his guidance Willy would develop into one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in UB History in either the old or the new era.
I approached Drew late last month and asked if he would be willing to do an interview for Bull Run, thankfully he agreed.
Drew Willy on his UB to Indianapolis experience:
Bull Run: What was the biggest thing that you took away from your odyssey from Buffalo to Baltimore to Indianapolis?
Drew Willy: The biggest thing that I could take away from my experiences going from Buffalo to Baltimore and then to Indianapolis is that to make it in this league you have to be mentally tough. I think that is something I really learned throughout my tutelage under Turner Gill. There is always going to be adversity in life and how you deal with it shows the true character of a person. Throughout my life I had people telling me that my teammates and myself could not change things throughout high school and then to college. In both experiences with the help of my teammates we were able to change losing teams into championship teams. I knew right from the get go when I got to Buffalo that I came in with a very talented recruiting class (James Starks, Brett Hamlin, Jesse Rack, Ernest Jackson, Alex Pierre, Gary Rice, Andrew West, Ray Norell, Mike Newton, Kendrick Hawkins, Mario Henry, Dane Robinson) and I knew we had the talent and drive as a class to be successful. A lot of us played early on and took our lumps as freshman and sophomores but when Coach Gill came on as a coach he really showed us the blueprint on how he was apart of championship teams throughout his life. Those guys in that recruiting class were extremely mentally tough and just relentless on the field and it was a pleasure to get to be apart of such a great group of guys.
Bull Run: Between Baltimore and Indianapolis which system works better for you as a quarterback?
Drew Willy: When looking at the two different offensive systems in Baltimore and Indianapolis I think they both do things that work well with my playing style. In Baltimore there were more 7 step drops and play action passes down field throwing deep comebacks and post routes over the top. Myself personally loves to throw vertical routes. The running game was a big part of the offense and a lot of time the pass came off of that which has been real successful for Baltimore over the past two seasons.
In Indianapolis all of the routes are so precise by the receivers and it really becomes a fun and exciting offense for a quarterback to run. When you have a field general like Peyton Manning it really makes you see how good he really is because of how successful he is in running the offense. I just really try to learn from him and the other coaches everyday. There are just so many ways that the colts are capable of getting the playmakers involved with screens, deep routes, digs, intermediate routes and also in the running game. I like being apart of it.
Bull Run: Which part of your game has improved the most since signing on with the Colts and what do you have to most improve on to make the cut this season?
Drew Willy: Since joining the Colts my game has improved in many ways from throwing more with my body and more on balance to improving mentally in the meeting room to on the field in understanding concepts. The biggest difference in the NFL game compared to the college game is the preparation that goes into a game. I thought college was a lot of preparation but when you look at how successful a lot of the top qb's are in the game it really comes down to who puts the work in during the week leading up to the game. That is something I try to look at it and learn in any way I can from an experienced quarterback like Peyton Manning.
Bull Run: How would you compare the NFL Receivers you're working with to Naaman Roosevelt?
Drew Willy: I think it is hard to compare Naaman to any one receiver in the NFL but I know that he will be a good player in this league. He just brings so much to an NFL team with solid hands and the run after the catch. He has very deceiving speed and ran away from a lot of defenders in college. The one thing that I think he really brings as a receiver that no one can teach is his ability to be able to judge the ball in the air. Throughout my time playing with him that is the one thing i always admired was the way he would always be the first one in the air to get the ball and make the spectacular catch. Another attribute that he has is his ability to rise to the occasion in big games. I always wanted to go into a game with players like that on my side because that was something I felt I excelled at in wanting the ball with the game on the line. I knew that he was clutch when we needed a play and I feel we both had that confidence in each other when our team needed it. Also he has the ability to help out in the kick and punt return game. It was always great knowing how dependable he was as a receiver and all quarterbacks love knowing they have a guy they know is always going to find a way to get open.
Bull Run: From what you remember at UB what are your impressions of Jerry Davis who is probably the front runner to take over for Maynard
Drew Willy: Both Jerry Davis and Zach Maynard were both true freshmen when I was still at UB but I remember both of them having a lot of potential to be good college quarterbacks. In the QB meeting room we were like a family with Coach Barrett, myself, Zach, Jerry and Cory. I really enjoyed being around them. I owe a lot of my success to Coach Barrett and we will always have a special relationship. But back to Jerry...he has the ability to really take hold of the QB battle and that competition is something he will have to rise to the occasion to accomplish. Jerry has the ability to throw the vertical deep ball very well. I think as he gets more experience he will become more comfortable with the new offense he is learning and really be able to show all of his skills. I know he will work very hard and I'm looking forward to seeing him progress as a QB. Not to mention he's a great guy that guys will enjoy being in the huddle with.
Bull Run: Did you have a chance to catch James Starks combine performance? How do you think it will affect his stock?
Drew Willy: James Starks is one of the most gifted athletes I have ever been around. It was always fun being able to stand back there in the pocket when you have someone of his talent protecting you and also making runs after the catch. To see his great numbers at the combine is no surprise to me because I have seen that athletic ability for years. From what I saw on TV it looked like he placed top 10 in all his events which is very impressive. Also I'm sure he did great in the interview process because he is a high character guy and a hard worker. It is always hard to know where someone's stock is because I was told all sorts of things last year when I was going through the process but I think wherever that stock was it definitely had to go up after the successful week James turned in at the combine.
Bull Run: With James Starks and Naaman Roosevelt both likely to be drafted this season, Trevor Scott going to the Raiders in 08' do you think UB is getting more attention from scouts then when you first started with the team?
Drew Willy: I think with the success of the program and players making it to the next level and the national attention from NFL personnel people has definitely increased. That is what winning does for a program. It has definitely been fun to see the program getting better year in and year out.
Bull Run: I'm curios about your thoughts on the UB Coaching situation, Turner Gill was the right Man for his time at UB and I think that Quinn may be the right man for today. Because they are vastly different coaches I was wondering if you thought there is one thing that you think Quinn brings to the UB Program that it lacked, and is there something you think that the program will miss about Gill?
Drew Willy: I can't even describe how much Coach Gill has meant to me as a person on and off the field. What he was able to do with our program was truly remarkable. I still talk to him often and have a great respect for him and his family. I'm sure he will have continued success at Kansas. I have not met Coach Quinn yet but from what I have heard he has a lot of energy and really cares about his players, which is always good to hear. It is also hard to imagine him not having a high explosive offense from watching his success at Cincinnati. Coach Gill was able to have a special relationship with his players and I just hope it stays that way within our program because I think that was the turning point towards success.
Bull Run: Warde Manuel has been pushing hard for a field house, as someone who went through the recruiting process how much of a difference do you thank that makes to potential recruits?
Drew Willy: To get a field house for the university would help tremendously in all sports. I know being a quarterback to have somewhere to throw when the weather is terrible would be a huge advantage to getting better as a player. There are so many positives for the football program that would come out of an indoor facility.
Will2Starks would like to know: Are you and Jamey Richard putting in the good word for Roosevelt and Starks to the Colts?
Drew Willy: I know from meeting with scouts during last years NFL draft process I would always get a question or two about James and Naaman, and the thing I would tell them is that they are play makers and are truly great people off the field. Any organization would be lucky to have them.
UBAllDay would like to know: How does the excitement of playing in the NFL especially studying from the best Quarterback in the NFL compare to your experiences at UB?
Drew Willy: Well being able to learn from the best quarterback in the NFL in this day in age is truly a blessing because I can grow as a leader and a player by just watching how he conducts the team. At UB I never really had this because I was thrown into the fire in my second game against Syracuse. Although it would of been nice to red shirt and learn from a veteran at UB, I think I truly learned from my experiences as a freshman. The only way to get truly better is to get live experience where the bullets are flying.
Drew Willy: In conclusion I would just like to say thank you to all the fans and supporters of UB football. The support has gotten better and better every year for the program and I hope it is just the start for things to come. I truly believe UB is a special place and have enjoyed meeting some life long friends and being able to be apart of the first MAC championship.