FORMER RHS FOOTBALL PLAYER NOW ELON STAR
Marcus Willoughby earns CAA Defensive Player of the Week
Smart. Hardworking. Determined.
Former RHS football player Marcus Willoughby displays these traits every week and people are starting to notice.
Willoughby graduated from Riverside high school in 2016 and is currently in his senior year at Elon University. A four-year starter with the Phoenix, he was named the Colonial Athletic Association’s Defensive Player of the Week after after Elon’s 35-28 win over The Citadel on Sept. 7. Willoughby racked up 14 tackles, 2 of which were for a loss, and 1 sack.
Willoughby also won the award, back in 2018 when he recorded 9 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss of yards and 2 sacks against the New Hampshire Wildcats.
Willoughby has been playing organized football since the age of nine. He played Tight End and Defensive End. He’s had quite a bit of time to improve his game and get better at his position. He compares himself to Lawrence Taylor and Patrick Willis, both NFL legends.
During his time at Riverside, Willoughby was considered a two-star recruit by Rivals.com played basketball his senior year. He played a total of 18 games and finished the season with an average of 1.2 points, 2.2 rebounds and 0.2 steals per game. On the football end, he played 10 games and finished with a total of 73 tackles, 5 sacks, 1 forced fumble and a safety.
Back in high school, Marcus was described to be very humble and caring of the people around him. He was said to have high expectations and morals by which he held himself to. Two former teachers were willing to vouch for such claims: RHS English teacher Mira Prater and former RHS football coach Christopher Howell. In an email sent in, Howell goes to describe Marcus as a hardworking person who cared for others. “Marcus is a great young man who worked his butt off for me and He helped me grow as a person and as a coach. He took care of me when I was sick and always had my back. He has grown a lot as a leader and is doing good things at Elon. That’s what I am most proud of, is how he’s getting people to follow him and that is an area he has improved on so much since high school.”
Mrs. Prater, formally Ms. Rahili, taught Marcus during his junior year and goes to say that Marcus was very humble and had high standards instilled into him by his parents. “Marcus was always a really humble student. It was hard for him to accept compliments about his work because he was just THAT humble. He was always prepared for class and he participated in everything . He never complained about the amount of reading or homework that was given, he just did it. Marcus did everything he could in order to maintain his good grades. He displayed his high expectations and morals while in my classroom.”
Willoughby said the college game is both physically and mentally different.
“College football is almost like a job, you have to stay the entire year working out and grinding, it’s 24/7.” says Willoughby, “ It never stops, not even in the offseason. In high school, you play a season and then you’re off until the next and get ready for workouts.
As a pre-game ritual, Willoughby listens to gospel music all day.
“I listen to gospel music and pray before games because I’m not playing for myself, I’m playing for God and for my family,” he said.
In addition to academic reasons, Elon was a perfect fit for him because it felt like he was welcomed into a family. “When I first visited Elon, I hadn’t decided that I wanted to attend the school, but while I was there, they made me feel like I was already a part of their family. I consider myself to be a pretty family oriented man and Elon gave me that feeling.”
Although Willoughby is honored to be recognized for such play, he still has bigger goals to reach.
“Yeah, it’s nice for me to be recognized and get a little exposure, but if as a team we’re not winning games, at the end of the day it doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “I missed three tackles against Citadel and I strive for perfection.”
Willoughby would love to see his team make a run in the playoffs, but that starts with winning the conference. He feels that in order to play at a higher caliber as a team, everyone must be mentally stronger and ready for anything that comes their way. “ For us to take things to the next level, we all just have to be ready for anything that comes our way. We have to both be mentally and physically ready for everything.”
As for visiting Riverside, he plans to stop by and make a few surprise visits to a couple of games when has the chance. “Yeah man, I love Riverside.”