I first met Arena Football League star Will Pettis in 2007, when the then-Dallas Desperados were in Atlanta to take on the Georgia Force. I heard that Pettis was a former Bradwell Institute football player and knew of his stellar career in the AFL.
Not knowing what to expect, I eagerly awaited my first interview with the 1996 BI grad. After I met and spoke with Pettis, I distinctly remember being surprised at how gracious and humble he was.
Since that first meeting, I have written several stories about Pettis. He always has been punctual in getting back with me and always speaks of God and others before himself.
Again, he is humble.
Last year, I had the honor of introducing Pettis’ family as he was being inducted into the Liberty County Athletic Hall of Fame. I sat and spoke with his parents, Delfina and William Pettis. His dad was quiet and soft-spoken; his mom praised God and her son.
Both were overjoyed but again quite humble.
Imagine my surprise Friday afternoon when Pettis dropped by the Courier office just to say hello. The 2007 AFL Iron-Man of the Year was in town for the day, visiting his family and friends before heading to Jacksonville on Saturday to watch the Dallas Vigilantes take on the Sharks.
We sat down to talk about life, coaching and the possibility of Pettis playing one more season.
He is thankful for the six seasons he had as a Desperado. He expressed his gratitude to his fans and the AFL for being recognized throughout his career. He thanked God for the recent opportunity he received to go back to the AFL and the Vigilantes as a coach.
He is thankful that, as a father of three young children, God gave him the opportunity to mentor the youth in his community and help them stay off of drugs and opt for sports instead.
He said coaching in the AFL has given him the tools that he hopes will allow him to mentor high-school aged kids and help them avoid some of the mistakes he made — and had to learn from the hard way.
He is thankful that he still has his health and fitness and is able to coach his players by running routes with them and challenging them on the field.
He is thankful he still has so much passion for the game that he is considering coming back and playing one more season.
With Pettis was his nephew, former Long County High School football and basketball standout Ricardo Rivera.
Rivera signed to play football at Savannah State University, but he recently transferred to Middle Georgia College and is pursuing a basketball career instead.
Rivera said things are going great and he is thankful for the opportunity to play at MGC. He said it was nice to be able to spend time with his uncle and he was ready to get back to college in August for the upcoming season.
In a day and age where athletes are all about the money, ego and doing what they can to be the next “reality super star,” it’s still refreshing to know there are a few athletes out there who are humble enough to do what they do out of love and passion for the game.
And its athletes like Pettis who are setting examples for the next generation of Liberty County super stars and for that, I am thankful.