On Thursday, Liberty County will induct five new members into the Athletic Hall of Fame.
The Courier has already profiled class of 2010 members Michael Sparks, Jerome Smith, Ernie Walthour and Jerome Standard. This edition features inductee Will Pettis.
Pettis attended Bradwell Institute and was a graduate of the class of 1996, making an impact on the Tigers’ football team. In his junior season Pettis had 38 solo tackles and 11 assists. He also picked off three passes.
After graduating, Pettis briefly attended Middle Georgia Junior College where he tallied 54 tackles before transferring to the University of Houston where he was the starting cornerback as a junior. Pettis transferred to Midwestern State University for his senior year and finished his college career with 42 tackles and three interceptions for MSU.
After graduating college, Pettis returned to football in 2002 as a member of the Pensacola Barracudas, an Arena Football League 2 team. As a Barracuda, he finished second on the team with 55 receptions for 791 yards and 14 touchdowns. Defensively, he led the team with nine interceptions and was third on the team with 36.5 tackles.In 2003, Pettis made his Arena Football League debut with the Dallas Desperados and had one of the league’s best seasons by a rookie, earning All-Rookie and Second-Team All-Arena honors. He finished the season with a rookie club-record 1,562 all-purpose yards; 798 receiving, 640 on kickoff returns, 93 on missed field goal returns, 22 on interception returns and nine rushing, while finishing fourth on the team with 34.5 tackles.
Pettis stayed with the Desperados until the AFL franchise shut down in 2009.
As a Desperado, Pettis accumulated 639 receptions for 6,516 yarsds and scored 142 touchdowns. Pettis also had 187 solo tackles, 23 assists and 21 interceptions. As a punt returner, he returned 378 kicks for 7,335 yards and 15 touchdowns.
He is a two-time recipient of the AFL’s Iron-Man of the Year Award, winning in 2007 and 2008. He was named to the All Iron-Man Arena team four times in his career and the All-Arena Team three times.
As prolific as he was on the field, Pettis also volunteered his time to several youth organizations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, including the Salvation Army and the Boys and Girls Club. During the off season, Pettis mentored at-risk youth about the game of football and his belief in Christian values and the importance of staying drug free.
When the AFL reorganized in 2010, Pettis returned to indoor football as a member of the Dallas Vigilantes on June 2.
The Hinesville native will celebrate his 32nd birthday Saturday. He lives in Texas with his wife Akiah and their children, Heaven-Leigh, 8, William, 6, Gabriella, 4, and Christian, 17 months.
During the off-season and brief AFL hiatus, Pettis opened a personal training business and began to help mentor young athletes. He also started a career in the tele-media industry.
He said he plans to return to the Dallas Vigilantes for the 2011 season as either a player or a member of the coaching staff.
The Liberty County Athletic Hall of Fame banquet will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9, at Club Stewart on Fort Stewart. Tickets are $15 and must be purchased in advance. For tickets, call Jimmy Martin or Rickey Gilliard at the Liberty County Recreation Department at 876-5359 or Craig Stafford at 369-4572. E-mails should be sent to Cstafford@coastallawyers.com.
Correction: In last week’s article about Michael Sparks, he was incorrectly identified as a BI Tiger. During his time at BI their mascot was the Lions not the Tigers. The Courier regrets the error.