Willis Patrick writes the same message on his arm before every game. Courtesy
Willis Patrick writes the same message on his arm before every game. Courtesy

High School Football

This lineman never forgets the inspiring words of his late cousin

By John English

Special to the Star Telegram

October 06, 2017 04:14 PM

Willis Patrick writes the words “Play with a Purpose” on his wrist before every game.

The Mansfield guard has established himself as one of the best offensive lineman in District 4-6A football over the last two seasons, and said it is the memory of a cousin who died a few years ago that motivates him.

“He meant a lot to me and was like a older brother,” Patrick said. “When I would go visit my cousins in the summer when I was younger, he would take care of me take me to go play basketball and protect me. He made me feel safe even when I was scared. He always encouraged me to not just play for no reason, but to play with a purpose.”

As serious an athlete as Patrick is, the Mansfield High School senior has another serious passion, as well.

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“I’ve been in choir since the sixth grade, and it has always been something that I’ve loved to do,” Patrick said. “Music is a beautiful thing and to be able to make your own with a choral is a great feeling.”

Patrick said the interesting thing about choir is that in many ways, it is similar to football.

“Some people think that it’s not a serious or competitive deal, but it’s actually quite the contrary,” Patrick said. “Our choir director, Mr. [Reginal] Wright, is truly the best at his job and his accolades prove that. His background in sports has helped me connect, giving the same effort on the field and on the court in choir.

“With him it’s not just about choir; he teaches us life lessons that reach deeper than singing.”

I have never seen that young man without a smile on his face or a kind word.

Mansfield choir director Reginal Wright on Willis Patrick

Wright, the choral director at Mansfield, played football and basketball in high school but was sidelined early in his career due to a serious injury.

Wright said he feels a special connection with his student athletes because he understands where they are coming from and can utilize their sense of teamwork to make the group stronger.

As a person, Wright said Patrick is the sort of student that instructors love to teach.

“Willis is a proud young man who enjoys life as well as the company of family and friends,” Wright said. “I have never seen that young man without a smile on his face or a kind word. He is always well mannered and very respectful. I am very excited for Willis in his athletics and his academics.”

On the football field, coach Dan Maberry said that Patrick is all business, improving steadily last season to a point where he is a major piece of the Mansfield offense.

“He is the vocal leader of the offensive line,” Maberry said. “He brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the team. He has done a great job of helping keep the o-line focused and prepared on the task at hand.”

Patrick said he is impressed with the team chemistry Mansfield has this season, and said being viewed as a team leader means a lot to him and is something he takes very seriously.

“Being voted a captain on such a talented team by my fellow teammates is truly a honor,” Patrick said. “Our coaching staff and my fellow teammates and I fully expect to win a state ring this year, and we are working hard to prepare for it everyday.

“Although we as a team are way beyond what we were a year ago, we know that we are not where we need to be to be a championship team, so we grind everyday and push each other to be the best teammates we can be.

Patrick’s Favorites

Favorite athlete: Lebron James

Favorite team: Cleveland Cavaliers

Favorite musical artist: Frank Ocean

Favorite movie: Forest Gump