Will Pettis

AFL GAMES PLAYED (regular season, playoffs): 2003 (15,1), 2004 (16,0). Total (31,1).

AFL NOTES: When the Desperados signed Will Pettis on Dec. 2, 2002, they were hoping to add a two-way playmaker. Pettis quickly proved them correct in their assessment. During his rookie season, he provided the squad with consistent coverage in the secondary while racking up yards with the ball in his hands – establishing a team record for all-purpose yards in a game and a season – to earn All-Rookie and second-team All-Arena honors. There was no sophomore slump with Pettis as he bettered his rookie performance after being named second-team All-Arena and to the AFL’s All-Ironman team. He finished the 2004 campaign as the only player in the AFL with more than 3,000 all-purpose yards (3,017). He ranked ninth in the league in catches (95), tied for 16th in receiving yards (1,076), 16th in total yards from scrimmage (1,112), 14th in kickoff return average (14.4) first in kickoff return yards (1,750), seventh in missed field goal return average (19.3), fourth in MFG return yards (135) and 14th in combined kick return average (19.8). He also set career-highs in tackles (37.5) and passes defensed (eight), while picking up one interception. Coaches expect Pettis to team up with Jason Shelley and Bobby Sippio to help lead one of the league’s top receiving tandems. AFL 2004: In his second season in Dallas, Pettis finished second on the team in receptions (95), third in receiving yards (1,076) and touchdowns (20). In the season opener against Carolina (2/8), Pettis led the team with 157 total yards – 125 on five kickoff returns and a 32-yard touchdown grab – while tying for second with four tackles and a pass defensed. Against Philadelphia (2/15), he earned Ironman of the Game after recording four catches for 51 yards and a touchdown – the game-winner with 0:23 remaining – five kickoff returns for 77 yards, one rush for 28 yards and a score, a missed field goal return of 13 yards, two tackles and a career-high tying two pass breakups, including the final Soul pass attempt in the end zone as the clock expired. At New York (2/22), he caught a team-high seven passes for 70 yards and a score, while returning two kickoffs for 42 yards. He totaled 86 yards on six catches, 88 yards and a touchdown on three kickoff returns and 47 yards on two missed field goal returns at Columbus (2/29). His 221 combined yards was good for the fifth best total yardage figure in franchise history. Against Grand Rapids (3/6), Pettis added eight receptions for 54 yards and two touchdowns, five kick returns for 98 yards, a MFG return for 22 yards and four tackles. The following week, he was named Ironman of the game at Carolina (3/13) with five catches for 100 yards and two scores, four kick returns for 64 yards, a MFG return for 12 yards while helping limit the Cobra offense to 251 yards of total offense. Against Los Angeles (3/21), he set a team record with 288 all-purpose yards – 106 yards and three touchdowns on seven receptions and 182 yards on 10 kickoff returns. at Philadelphia (4/4), he caught a career-high tying nine passes for a career-high 142 yards and two touchdowns – marking his third consecutive 100-yard receiving day. He also returned six kickoffs for 101 yards, finishing the day with 243 combined yards – his second straight game with more than 200 total yards. Against San Jose (4/10), Pettis had another all-around game totaling five catches for 45 yards, five kickoff returns for 93 yards, a MFG return for 16 yards, four tackles and a pass defensed. He caught a game-high nine passes for 110 yards and two scores while returning eight kickoffs for 164 yards and posting a stop on defense at Arizona (4/18). At Orlando (4/25), he finished with a career-high and club record 260 kickoff return yards and a club record two kickoff return touchdowns on nine returns while catching two passes for 13 yards and a score. His 273 total yards was the third highest single-game yardage total in club history. Against New York (5/1), he finished second on the squad with six catches for 43 yards, returned six kickoffs for 102 yards, a MFG return of 25 yards while adding four tackles and two pass deflections on defense. At Austin (5/9), Pettis led the team once again with seven passes for 70 yards and a season-high tying three touchdowns, with two kickoff returns for 48 yards, a rush for eight yards and two assisted tackles. Pettis led the team for the second consecutive week with eight catches for 60 yards and a score while adding five kick returns for 61 yards and four tackles at Chicago (5/16). Against Columbus (5/22), he totaled 252 yards for the game – 73 and a score on eight catches, 159 on nine kickoff returns and 20 on an interception return. To close out his stellar season, Pettis tied for third on the team with three catches for 21 yards while also returning four kickoffs for 86 yards and a single tackle against Tampa Bay (5/30).

AFL 2003: Pettis made his Arena Football League debut in 2003 and put together one of the league’s best seasons by a rookie to earn All-Rookie and second-team All-Arena honors. He finished the season with a club-record 1,562 all-purpose yards – 798 receiving, 640 on kickoff returns, 93 on missed field goal returns, 22 on interception returns and nine rushing – while finishing fourth on the team with 34.5 tackles. He opened his indoor career against New York (2/2) with four catches for 35 yards – including a key two-point conversion catch – three tackles and two passes defensed. The following week against Chicago (2/9), he totaled four tackles, an interception, three receptions for 18 yards and a touchdown and a missed field goal return for four yards. At Orlando (2/16), he tied for the team lead with six catches for 84 yards and a touchdown. He served as one of the defensive specialists at Detroit (2/23) and totaled four tackles while returning three kickoffs for 80 yards – all before spraining his right ankle midway through the third quarter and missing the remainder of the game. He returned to two-way play at Arizona (3/2) and caught two passes for 29 yards, returned two kickoffs for 30 yards and totaled two tackles and an interception. After Kareem Larrimore sprained his knee late in the third period against the Rattlers, Pettis finished the game as a defensive specialist. Playing as the defensive specialist against Colorado (3/7), he posted a tackle and a pass defensed while returning five kickoffs for 76 yards. Pettis returned to the two-way role against Grand Rapids (3/16) to catch three passes for 27 yards and a score, rush twice for a one-yard touchdown, return two kickoffs for 34 yards, return a missed field goal for 33 yards and tie for the team lead with four stops. At Carolina (3/21), he caught three passes for 49 yards and a touchdown on offense while totaling four tackles and a pass deflection on defense. He caught a team-high eight passes for a career-high 116 yards and three touchdowns against Indiana (3/29) while posting three stops and returning three kickoffs for 51 yards and a missed field goal for 17 yards. In a nationally telecast game against San Jose (4/6), Pettis caught four passes for 61 yards and two touchdowns, carried the ball twice for three yards and the game-winning touchdown, and made a game-turning, fourth quarter interception. He continued his strong performance at Indiana (4/13) by registering eight receptions for 84 yards and two scores on the offensive side of the ball and four stops on the defensive side. With 84 total yards against the Firebirds, Pettis moved past the club rookie all-purpose yards record with 933 total yards in only 11 games. The following week at Chicago (4/20), he totaled 199 all-purpose yards, the third best all-purpose figure in franchise history. He reached this feat with 105 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches, 54 yards on three kickoff returns, 39 yards on a missed field goal return and a single yard on two rushes. He earned co-Ironman of the Game honors against Los Angeles (4/27) after catching five passes for 44 yards – including a two-point conversion late in the game – rushing twice for three yards and a score, returning three kickoffs for 47 yards and totaling four tackles. During the four games in April, Pettis totaled 24 catches for 294 yards and six touchdowns, six carries for seven yards and a score, six kickoff returns for 101 yards, a missed field goal return for 39 yards, 9.5 tackles and an interception to earn AFL Rookie of the Month honors. He opened the month of May in grand fashion, catching a career-high nine passes for 78 yards and two scores, returning a career-high seven kickoffs for a career-high 190 yards. His career-high 266 total yards against the Storm established a team record and marked only the second time in team history a player had registered more than 200 all-purpose yards in a single game (Dialleo Burks, 224 at San Jose, 5/25/02). The following week at Georgia (5/10), he caught a team-high seven passes for 68 yards and a score and carried the ball once for a two-yard touchdown despite missing considerable time during the game with a left hip pointer and a left shoulder strain. He missed the regular season finale at Grand Rapids (5/18) with his injuries, but returned the following week to make his postseason debut in a first round playoff game against Georgia (5/24). He earned Ironman of the Game honors against the Force after catching a team-high seven passes for 47 yards and two touchdowns, carrying the ball once for a yard, returning five kickoffs for 119 yards and totaling four tackles.

OTHER PRO EXPERIENCE: 2003 – Pettis went to training camp with the New Orleans Saints but was released midway through camp. 2002 – Pettis joined the Pensacola Barracudas of af2 and finished the year second on the team with 55 catches for 791 yards and 14 touchdowns. Defensively, he led the club with nine interceptions for 47 yards, 34 pass break ups and eight missed field goal returns for 168 yards and a touchdown. He was third on the squad with 36.5 tackles, including two for losses. 2001 – He was out of football.

COLLEGE: 2000 – Pettis transferred to Midwestern State and finished his final collegiate campaign with 42 tackles and three interceptions. He also finished second in the Lone Star Conference with a team-leading 14.6-yard punt return average – 146 yards on 10 returns. 1999 – He was a starting corner for the Houston Cougars as a junior. 1998 – He was named to the GJCAA Region 17 All-District team after totaling 54 tackles for Middle Georgia Junior College. He also broke up three passes for a Middle Georgia defense that established a NJCAA record for fewest yards surrendered in a season. 1997 – He attended Middle Georgia J.C., but did not play football.

PERSONAL: Pettis attended the Bradwell Institute in Hinesville, Ga to finish out his prep career. He lives with his wife, Akiah, and their child.