Fred Willis

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Fred Willis
Position: Running back
Personal information
Date of birth: (1947-12-09) December 9, 1947 (age 69)
Place of birth: Natick, Massachusetts
Career information
College: Boston College
NFL Draft: 1971 / Round: 4 / Pick: 93
Career history
Career NFL statistics
Touchdowns: 99
Yards Rushing: 5189
Yards Receiving: 1380

Fred Willis (born December 9, 1947) is a retired American football running back who played six seasons in the National Football League for the Cincinnati Bengals and Houston Oilers.[1]

Early life[edit]

Willis grew up in Natick, Massachusetts and attended Marian High School in Framingham, Massachusetts and Kimball Union Academy where he was an All-American High School and Prep School player, in 1966 Willis broke the all-time New England schoolboy scoring champion, a record that hadn't been broken and held since 1950 by Lorne (Tippy) Johnson of Lynn English High School... He starred in football as well as in hockey, where he was a forward who led the team to an undefeated season, a league title, and the state tournament. He considered football and hockey scholarship offers from Michigan State University and the University of Notre Dame, but decided to attend Boston College.[2]

College career[edit]

Willis played football at Boston College. A halfback, he established a career rushing mark with 2,115 yards in three varsity seasons. He was the first Eagles' running back to surpass 1,000 yards rushing in a single season when he totaled 1,107 his senior year. He was voted All-America and All-East his senior season of 1970, and played in the postsseason all-star Senior Bowl and Blue-Gray Game.[3] He was also a top 6 forward for the Eagles' hockey team.

He was inducted into the Boston College Varsity Club Athletic Hall of Fame in 1977.[4]

Professional career[edit]

Willis was drafted in the fourth round (93rd overall) of the 1971 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.[5] He posted similar statistics in each of his six years in the NFL, but during his rookie year of 1971, in which he played all 14 games, starting six at fullback, he had 593 rushing yards (a career best) on 135 attempts (a career-best 4.4 average) while scoring a career-best seven touchdowns. He also had 24 receptions for 223 yards (a 9.3 average).[6]

In 1972, he played and started in the Bengals' first five games. On October 24, 1972 Willis was traded, along with fellow running back Paul Robinson, to the Houston Oilers for wide receiver Charlie Joiner and linebacker Ron Pritchard.[7][8] For the Oilers, he played eight games, starting seven at fullback. His combined totals for both teams were 461 yards on 134 attempts (a 3.4 average) but he was especially effective receiving out of the backfield with 45 receptions for 297 yards (a 6.6 average) and two touchdowns.

In 1973, he started all 14 games, with 579 yards rushing on a career-high 171 attempts (a 3.4 average) and four touchdowns with career highs of 57 receptions and 371 yards (a 6.5 average) and one touchdown.[9]

In 1974, his playing time went down as he played 10 games (with no starts) with 239 yards rushing in 74 attempts (a 3.2 average) and three touchdowns, with 25 receptions for 132 yards (a 5.2 average) and one touchdown.

He rebounded in 1975 with four starts in 13 games and 420 rushing yards on 118 attempts (a 3.6 average) and two touchdowns, along with 20 receptions for 104 yards (a 5.2 average).

His final year with the Oilers and in the NFL was 1976, but his production went up. He started in 12 of 13 games, with 542 yards in 148 attempts (a 3.7 average) and two touchdowns along with 32 receptions for 255 yards (an 8.0 average) and one touchdown.[10]

In 1977, he played for the Denver Broncos.

Willis was the first running back in the history of the NFL to win the pass receiving title.

Fred Willis was a union representative and Executive Board member for the National Football League Players Association.

Personal life[edit]

Fred Willis is a dedicated and tireless worker on behalf of Retired NFL Players with Dementia/Neurocognitive disorders from concussions received during their playing careers and is passionate to solve the sports concussion crisis in America. He is a former NFL player, player rep and executive committee board member for the NFLPA, who played 7 years with the Bengals, Oilers and Broncos and is Founder & Executive Director of NFL Players Brains Matter, Founder President & CEO of HPN Neurologic. Fred's leadership in this field has made him a force and sought-after voice for TBI/CTE awareness, and he has shared his story and work at corporations, medical conferences, schools, and sports organizations.

Degenerative brain disease in retired NFL Players has been associated with memory loss, reduced impulse control, depression, headaches, premature senility and more. As we age, the damage and symptoms manifest themselves even more if untreated, neurocognitive deficits, which are a reduction or impairment of cognitive function show physical changes can be seen to have occurred in the brain, such as after concussion brain injury during our playing careers, an emerging legacy of the National Football League and generation of retired NFL Players with traumatic brain Injury (TBI).

The nature of these injuries are complicated and pose significant rehabilitation challenges. These, symptoms at first technically mild, though significant, head injuries were often overlooked during active playing days, and it has become painfully apparent that following release from the NFL the debilitating effects of TBI have continued. The HPN Neurologic Clinical Treatment Trial Studies have shown significant clinical improvement in Retired NFL Players with the symptoms of Post-Concussion Syndrome, TBI/CTE.

Fred Willis is frequently credited with being the person/advocate most responsible for bringing the plight of his NFL brothers and the concussion and CTE crisis to the forefront of consciousness. Over 4 years his aggressive advocacy has reshaped how we understand, research, and treat the effects of brain trauma. His programs honor a decision, action and initiative that has contributed to proving classification and qualification for the NFL Concussion Lawsuit, The 88 Plan and Total and Permanent Disability benefits.

Fred Willis’ aim within the NFL Retired Player community is to influence decisions and to provide step-by-step information to successfully obtain and guarantee retired players the benefits they deserve. He is dedicated to retaining the leading experts in science and medicine to evaluate baseline requirements to present settlement claims in the most favorable light to determine how much compensation a player and their family are entitled to.

The medical experts he works closely with have access to the most advanced cutting edge technology which can be used to show damage to the brain. This cutting edge, advanced “Fast Track Team” approach technology allows him to obtain maximum compensation for players who have not yet experienced the full effects of their injuries which could develop in the future after their case has been settled and then treatment for Post-Concussion Syndrome, to increase the quality of life of retired NFL football players and seek to examine the health conditions that affect retired NFL players and to find better ways to diagnose, treat, and prevent their most pressing medical problems.

By way of background in 2012, he set out to invest and acquire an effective treatment process and protocol for post-concussion syndrome behavior/TBI/CTE, his company HPN Neurologic has been "treating pro bono" retired NFL players for the last 3 years in cities around the country, there are now qualified licensed strategic provider treatment teams in place to treat retired players for post-concussion syndrome after the qualifying process is completed.

″The 2 Year NFL Retired Player Clinical Trial Study.″ He recently self-funded and co-authored a 2-year NFL Retired Player Clinical Trial Study, determining the efficacy of HPN High Performance Neurofeedback treatment for reduction of symptoms related to Traumatic Brain Injury and enhancement of cognitive function. The entire treatment protocol improved on all measures of behavior. All pre-test QEEGs revealed statistically significant deviations from a normative data base on measures of Absolute Power, Amplitude Asymmetries, Coherence, and Phase. Post testing indicated remarkable normalization of all QEEG Brain Maps.

In 2012, he filed a lawsuit against the NFL claiming that repeated blows to the head and concussions have led to memory loss and dementia.[11][12][13]

Mr Willis is very passionate about his sport injuries and has made a case to the NFL for what has happened to him through the career he chose. He currently lives in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusettswith his wife Darlene and has one son Frederick Brett Willis.


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