Willis Named Assistant Football Coach
Feb. 8, 2001
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. - Keith Willis, who has been the defensive line coach for the past two years at the University of Cincinnati, has been named an assistant football coach at Boston College and will again work with the defensive line.
Willis played on the defensive line at Northeastern from 1978-81 and led the team in sacks in each of his final three seasons. He was a four-year starter and two-time captain for the Huskies. Following his NU career, Willis enjoyed a 12-year career in the National Football League - with 10 of those seasons coming with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"My family and I are very much looking forward to returning to the Boston area," says Willis. "I feel that Boston College is an up-and-coming program in college football and that great things are happening there. The BIG EAST is a wonderful conference to compete in and with the current players in the BC program, there is a chance to compete for championships and bowl games each year."
"We are excited about the addition of Keith Willis and his family to the Boston College football family," says Eagles head coach Tom O'Brien. "He comes highly-recommended and he is a great motivator with his professional playing experience. I'm sure he will be a great teacher to our young defensive linemen." Willis helped lead Cincinnati to a 7-4 regular season record in 2000 and the Bearcats advanced to the Motor City Bowl - losing to Marshall by a 25-14 count.
Willis signed as a free agent with the Steelers in 1982 and ended his career there ranked third in team history with 59 quarterback sacks - third to only L.C. Greenwood (73.5) and Joe Greene (66). His 14 sacks in 1982 and 12 sacks in 1986 are the second and third highest single-season totals in team history.
He battled back from a neck injury that kept him sidelined for all of the 1988 season to start all 16 games in 1989, making 32 tackles with 6.5 sacks. His comeback efforts were recognized by being selected for the team's Ed Block Courage Award in 1990. Willis ended his career with the Steelers following the 1991 season and played as a reserve on the Buffalo Bills team that competed in the Super Bowl in 1993.
Willis retired from the NFL in 1993 and started his coaching career as defensive line coach at Slippery Rock College in 1995. During his four-year stay there, Willis was the school's liaison for the Minority Student-Athlete Mentoring program. In the summer of 1998, he completed an NFL internship with the Steelers. He completed his undergraduate degree from Northeastern in therapeutic recreation with a concentration in juvenile delinquency in 1988.
A native of Newark, N.J., Willis and his wife Maxine have two children - Jasmine (17) and Keith, Jr. (15).