By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News
— A one-time standout on offense for Gardendale High is now enjoying a career revival of sorts on the junior-college level in Mississippi.
Jamicheal Willis, who played for the Rockets through his junior year, is now playing for Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, Mississippi, located on Interstate 59 between Laurel and Hattiesburg.
As a member of the Bobcats wide receiver corps, Willis first caught national attention when his team defeated Mississippi Gulf Coast College, which was then the top-ranked team in the junior college ranks by that level’s two major polls. In that game, Willis caught nine receptions for 226 yards and two touchdowns, including an 81-yard scoring strike, as the Bobcats won 52-42 on Sept. 19.
He also had a 71-yard touchdown catch against Pearl River Junior College the week before.
Willis was not quite as prolific last week in the Bobcats’ 50-47 comeback win over Copiah-Lincoln Junior College. He caught six passes for 99 yards, third-best on the team.
Still, he’s amassed 147 yards per game, which leads the nation in the National Junior College Athletic Association receiving statistics. He’s also tied for third in touchdown catches with six in five games.
Jones County sports a perfect 5-0 record so far this season, and has steadily climbed through the two major junior-college polls. The NJCAA poll ranks the Bobcats third in the nation, while the JCGridiron “Dirty 30” poll at Rivals.com lists them as fifth in the nation.
Willis was the Rockets’ top receiver in his sophomore and junior years, and tied an AHSAA record with six touchdown catches in a single game. That effort came in 2010, as Gardendale blew away Bessemer City 51-26.
Willis was named the top offensive player of the week by both the AHSAA and the Alabama Sports Writers Association after that game.
But in his senior year, Willis had a falling out with then-coach Chris Fancher, and was dismissed from the team before the season began for a violation of team rules. Fancher himself resigned following the end of the 2012 season.
Willis did not have enough time or resources to move to another school district in a way that would comply with AHSAA “bona fide transfer” rules, so he sat out his senior year.