Former Lakes student and football player Willis Wilson dies in Hawaii

Staff writerNovember 30, 2013 

The body of a former Lakes High School tailback was found underwater Saturday morning off a Hawaii beach.

The father of University of Hawaii football player Willis Wilson, 21, called the Lakes football coach to tell him that Wilson had drowned.

“Most of the (conversation) was both of us crying, quite honestly," said Dave Miller, who said Wilson was one of the best running backs he has coached over 28 years at Lakes and 15 years as head coach there. “I've spoken to a lot of our Lakes football family and everybody is hurting.”

His senior year, the News Tribune picked Wilson for its 2009 All-Area team and the South Puget Sound League named him Offensive Back of the Year after he ran for 1,398 yards, averaged 10 yards a carry and scored a single-season school-record 22 rushing touchdowns.

Wilson helped lead Lakes as far as the Class 3A state semifinals in 2008 and 2009.

After graduating from high school in 2010, Wilson walked on at the University of Washington before joining the University of Hawaii team.

Honolulu Fire Department Capt. James Todd said Willis was among a group of young men and women who were wading along Sandy Beach, a popular bodysurfing beach on Oahu. The water was at most knee deep, Todd said, but powerful waves are known to knock people down.

“It pulls you back in when it recedes, so he might have gotten taken in like that,” Todd said. Just before 4:30 a.m., with the beach still dark, Wilson’s friends realized they couldn’t see him any more.

Jack Willis Wilson III was born in Pearl City, HI, according to the University of Hawaii, which said his father, Jack Wilson Jr., also played football for Hawaii. The university says the younger Wilson had planned to major in communicology and theatre.

His father and mother, Faye Wilson, live in Las Vegas, according to the school, which says he has a younger brother and sister. Off the field, Miller said Wilson was gregarious and playful, “very quick to impersonate and have fun and just a very happy-go-lucky kid.”

“From the get-go,” he said, “you could just tell he was a special kid with a special personality and a desire to work to be great.”

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