By Sydney Ciano
The 23-year-old Everett native, Jake Willcox, has returned home for winter break coming off of his breakout season with Brown University. The starting quarterback and captain immediately felt at home with the Bears, and his senior season completed with a whopping 2,894 passing yards and 17 passing touchdowns serves as a plaque of the success he was able to build with them.
However, his college career is not over just yet.
Planning to remain at Brown for his fifth year of eligibility, the 6-foot-2-inch, 195-pound quarterback is ready to hit the weight room, film room, and eventually the field to keep his excel on the rise.
“Staying consistent,” Willcox said is his goal. “My big thing is staying in the weight room, trying to get bigger and faster, which is always the goal. I think another year of experience is really going to help me.”
This determination and effort did not go unnoticed during the 2023 season either. Willcox was named one of the 30 Walter Payton Award finalists and also set five top 10, single-season records in Brown’s history. These included landing second in most passing attempts, fourth in most pass completions, sixth in completion percentage, sixth in number of passing yards, and seventh in total offense.
Even with awards and recognition to commend his on-field success, “becoming a student of the game” in the film room and preparing each week “like it was the biggest game we had” was the mentality that helped him soar.
Willcox said that the structure of Brown’s program is a key factor to his overall success. He was not always in the starting role, seeing playing time here and there before making a leap into the 2022 season where he found himself behind the center more frequently. As a junior he ended the season with 1,761 passing yards, a 64.2 percent passing rate, and 12 touchdowns.
“I definitely think experience helps, being able to just get into the playbook more [and] have an extra year to focus,” Willcox said. “And also, being able to get into the weight room… It helped me build timing with all [of] my receivers.”
With a playbook that prioritizes passing, Willcox was able to skyrocket in 2023. Not having set specific personal goals for himself, his focus was “to go out there and win” every step of the way.
“I have an unbelievable coach,” Willcox said of Brown University head coach James Perry. “[He] has a great system that allows for me to throw the ball almost 50 times a game, which is all you can really ask for as a quarterback.
The instant connection Willcox had to Perry and his system was what made him know that Brown was the football program for him. He said that the moment he was offered to play for Perry, the quarterback felt like it was the perfect system where his strengths in the game would be highlighted. Having the opportunity as a freshman to act almost as a shadow E.J. Perry, who is now a Jacksonville Jaguar in the NFL, Willcox was ready to blend perfectly with the Bears.
“He has an amazing football mind,” Willcox said of the now-NFL quarterback. “Being able to learn under a guy like that, I can’t even put into words how impactful that was for me in terms of my growth as a quarterback.”
His personal success was not a quarterback-exclusive effort either. Willcox commended his teammates and their comradery throughout the 2023 season, through every loss and every battle, as they pushed him to become not only a better player but a better leader as well. Alongside him stood his fellow captains, fifth year linebacker Ethan Royer, fifth year wide receiver Wes Rockett, and junior defensive back Isaiah Reed. Together, the four made the locker room and field places for each athlete to succeed.
“It allowed me to be confident,” reflected Willcox. “My teammates did a good job picking me up and continuing to instill confidence in me despite not having as good of a season the year before.”
Playing for each other was the energy in the locker room that translated onto the field and into each player’s on-field action.
“We wanted more football, more football,” Willcox said. “As much as we could possibly get.”
Matching that energy for the Bears were the students, fans, family, and friends. For Willcox, personally, his support system off the team never let him down as they showed up and out at every game. Being so close to home has allowed him to settle in and appreciate the unwavering support.
With the future inevitably on the horizon, entering the NFL Draft is not something Willcox will shy away from. If presented with the opportunity, continuing to play the sport he loves will always be at the forefront of his mind.
As for the present, though, the quarterback is confident in himself and in his team as they reflect on the 2023 season and look ahead into 2024.
“I think you’re going to see the best season that Brown’s had yet,” he said.