Kenny Willekes

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Kenny Willekes
refer to caption
Willekes with Michigan State in 2018
Michigan Panthers
Position:Defensive end
Personal information
Born: (1997-07-22) July 22, 1997 (age 26)
Rockford, Michigan, U.S.
Height:6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Weight:264 lb (120 kg)
Career information
High school:NorthPointe Christian
(Grand Rapids, Michigan)
College:Michigan State (2015–2019)
NFL draft:2020 / Round: 7 / Pick: 225
Career history
Roster status:Active
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Total tackles:16
Pass deflections:1
Player stats at · PFR

Kenny Willekes (born July 22, 1997) is an American football defensive end for the Michigan Panthers of the United Football League (UFL). He played college football at Michigan State.

Early years[edit]

Willekes attended NorthPointe Christian High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He played linebacker and running back in high school. He had 423 tackles during his high school football career.[1]

College career[edit]

Willekes joined Michigan State University as a walk-on in 2015.[2][3] He redshirted his first year and played in one game in 2016.[4] In 2017, Willekes became a starter, starting 12 of 13 games. He finished the season with 72 tackles and seven sacks.[5] In 2018, he was named the Big Ten Conference Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year after recording 78 tackles and 8.5 sacks.[6][7] Willekes returned to Michigan State his senior year in 2019 rather than enter the 2019 NFL Draft.[8][9] During the season he broke Julian Peterson's school record for career tackles for loss.[10] He was named the 2019 recipient of the Burlsworth Trophy on December 9, 2019, in Springdale, Arkansas, during a reception hosted by the Brandon Burlsworth Foundation in conjunction with the Springdale Rotary Club at the Springdale Convention Center.[11]

Professional career[edit]

Pre-draft measurables
Height Weight Arm length Hand span 40-yard dash 10-yard split 20-yard split Three-cone drill Vertical jump Broad jump Bench press
6 ft 3+12 in
(1.92 m)
264 lb
(120 kg)
31+14 in
(0.79 m)
9+12 in
(0.24 m)
4.87 s 1.69 s 2.82 s 7.39 s 32.5 in
(0.83 m)
9 ft 11 in
(3.02 m)
32 reps
All values from NFL Combine[12][13]

Minnesota Vikings[edit]

Willekes was selected by the Minnesota Vikings with the 225th pick in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL Draft.[14] He was placed on injured reserve on September 2, 2020.[15]

On August 31, 2021, Willekes was waived by the Vikings and re-signed to the practice squad the next day.[16][17] He was promoted to the active roster on January 8, 2022.[18]

On June 2, 2022, Willekes was waived/injured by the Vikings and placed on injured reserve.[19]

On May 23, 2023, Willekes was released.[20]

Michigan Panthers[edit]

On December 8, 2023, Willekes signed with the Michigan Panthers of the United States Football League (USFL).[21]


  1. ^ Charboneau, Matt. "Tireless work ethic pays off for MSU's Kenny Willekes". Detroit News.
  2. ^ "Seems like old times: How a former walk-on is sparking the Spartans' revival". November 9, 2017.
  3. ^ Solari, Chris. "How Michigan State DE Kenny Willekes went from walk-on to NFL prospect". Detroit Free Press.
  4. ^ "Once doubted as walk-on, Michigan State DE Kenny Willekes validated as potential starter". mlive. August 9, 2017.
  5. ^ "Kenny Willekes - It's No Wonder That He Drives Team Chemistry". July 29, 2018.
  6. ^ Solari, Chris. "Michigan State's Kenny Willekes: Big Ten defensive lineman of the year". Detroit Free Press.
  7. ^ Charboneau, Matt. "Former walk-on Kenny Willekes emerges as Michigan State's terror in trenches". Detroit News.
  8. ^ Solari, Chris. "To understand Kenny Willekes' rise at MSU, start with his broken leg". Detroit Free Press.
  9. ^ Solari, Chris. "Kenny Willekes returning to Michigan State football for his senior season". Detroit Free Press.
  10. ^ "Kenny Willekes breaks Michigan State's tackle for loss record vs. Maryland". mlive. December 1, 2019.
  11. ^ "Kenny Willekes Wins Burlsworth Trophy". December 9, 2019. Retrieved December 12, 2019.
  12. ^ "Kenny Willekes Draft and Combine Prospect Profile". Retrieved October 30, 2022.
  13. ^ "2020 Draft Scout Kenny Willekes, Michigan State NFL Draft Scout College Football Profile". Retrieved October 30, 2022.
  14. ^ Wenzel, Matt (April 25, 2020). "2020 NFL draft: Michigan State DE Kenny Willekes picked by Vikings in seventh round". Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  15. ^ "Willekes Placed on Reserve/Injured; Roster Moves". September 2, 2020. Retrieved September 3, 2020.
  16. ^ "Vikings Announce Roster Moves to Get to Initial 53". August 31, 2021.
  17. ^ Peters, Craig (September 1, 2021). "Vikings Claim TE Ben Ellefson & Sign 14 to Practice Squad".
  18. ^ "Vikings Activate Christian Darrisaw & Ezra Cleveland, Make Multiple Roster Moves". January 8, 2022.
  19. ^ "Vikings Add Jonathan Bullard to Roster". June 2, 2022.
  20. ^ Ireland, Tyler (May 23, 2023). "Vikings sign XFL WR Lucky Jackson, waive OLB Kenny Willekes". Daily Norseman. Retrieved May 24, 2023.
  21. ^ Larsen, James (December 8, 2023). "Michigan Panthers Sign RB Nate McCrary & Edge Kenny Willekes". Pro Football Newsroom. Retrieved December 9, 2023.

External links[edit]