SOURCE: Bob Elliott (Toronto Sun)
TORONTO -The Blue Jays signed Luke Willson from La Salle, Ont., on Thursday.
The left-handed hitter formerly played first base for Team Canada.
Right now he’s eight days away from the season opener for the Rice (University) Owls when they open the football season against the University of Texas Longhorns.
Last fall the tight end led the Owls with 425 yards receiving, catching 33 passes. He caught three touchdown passes in 11 games. His longest was a 55-yard touchdown against Tulsa.
When the Jays see in him is open for debate.
This fall will determine if or where Willson goes in the next year’s NFL draft. If he does not have a future in pro football he now has the option of reporting to Dunedin next May.
“I hope he has a great year in football,” said Jays scouting director Andrew Tinnish, “but if it does not work out, we’ll be there for him. The boy has tremendous make-up, Greg Hamilton tells me he’ll hit until his hands bleed. I’ll bet if he has an off day he’s taking batting practice. He’s already talked to our area scout.”
Under NCAA rules students can sign a pro contract in one sport and remain eligible in another.
Willson hit clean-up for Hamilton’s Canadian National Junior Team in 2008 at the World Juniors in Edmonton.
“He’s got great strength and power, he’ll just need some at-bats to catch up,” said Brett Lawrie, the No. 3 hitter on that team, now the Jays regular third baseman.
Willson had offers from pro teams to sign coming out of high school but chose Rice instead in 2008.
He’s on the John Mackey award watch list, which goes annually to the best tight end in college and he was a first-team Conference USA selection.
“This fall will determine if he choses football or baseball,” said Tinnish. “I know he loves both.”
Willson isn’t any different than youngsters across Canada trying to pick one sport over the other, but he has a back-up plan if the NFL does not work out.