Michigan Panthers Sign RB Nate McCrary & Edge Kenny Willekes

Michigan State Standout Kenny Willekes Excited For Homecoming

The Michigan Panthers brought in some impressive talent this offseason. One of those names is DE Kenny Willekes, who is making his return to the state of Michigan to play with the Panthers.

Willekes signed with the team in early December, following some NFL workouts in the spring and summer. Panthers fans will certainly recognize the name, as Kenny went on an absolute tear with Michigan State from 2017-2019. Across that span, he started in 37 of 38 games played, totaling 228 tackles and 24.5 sacks.

Multiple NFL teams pursued Kenny coming out of college, and he landed with the Minnesota Vikings. Kenny posted 18 tackles and 2.5 sacks with the team, but ultimately dealt with some injuries that derailed his professional career.

Excitement For UFL Season

Now, Kenny will have the opportunity to get back on track in the UFL – something he’s very excited about accomplishing this spring. Yesterday, he spoke with the media to cover some topics regarding his football future in the spring scene.

“I’m super excited for this opportunity. Obviously I’ve taken two years away from football (due to injuries) and I’m very grateful that the UFL is giving me this chance to play football again. It’s a way to showcase that I belong at the highest level, and it’s basically a second chance to chase our dreams.”

He’s joining a very talented league, and has been impressed with what he’s seen in training camp so far.

“With the combining of the USFL and XFL, you can tell that there’s a lot of talent in this league. There’s a lot of guys who are showing up and competing. Across the board, there’s NFL-caliber talent on both sides of the football.”

When it comes to the amount of talent the Michigan Panthers feature on the defensive line, Kenny spoke highly of this group and what they’re capable of accomplishing this season.

“It’s coming along really well in camp. Coach Bauer is doing a great job of bringing us on and getting us ready. We got a really good group of guys. A few of them were here last year, and we picked up some new players who have experience in the NFL. It’s gelling really nicely so far.”

Not only is this an opportunity to play football again, it’s also a chance for Kenny to have a “homecoming” back to the state that kick started this pro journey in the first place.

“I’m super excited to be back in front of Michigan fans. Michigan State fans were amazing and always brought the energy. That was honestly the biggest reason for me signing with the Panthers was just to be able to come back and play in front of that fan base, and play in front of my family and friends. I’m super excited to see Ford Field get rocking again.”

This season is going to be a sprint for UFL athletes, as they’ll be playing ten straight weeks without a bye. Preparation is key, and it’s something Willekes and the entire organization is focused on.

“At the end of the day, it comes down to playing football. With only ten games we have limited opportunities, so it’s important that we come out firing every single week. We can’t take a single day for granted.”

To the football fans in Michigan, who Kenny is certainly familiar with, his message is clear:

“Show up, be loud, and be ready to have some fun. We’re excited about the people we have on this team, and we’re gonna be able to compete for a championship. Our defense is going to be fast and physical, we’ll be flying around and getting to the ball. Big hits, big celebrations.”

Big hits will no doubt be a staple of this Michigan Panthers defense. They retained some key players from last year, including the Defensive Player of the Year Frank Ginda. In addition, they feature the likes of Breeland Speaks, Daniel Wise, LeVonta Taylor, Bryce Torneden, etc. – it’s going to be scary.

The Michigan Panthers will kick off their UFL season at home on March 30th, against the St. Louis Battlehawks at 4pm ET.

Are you excited to watch Kenny Willekes suit up for the Michigan Panthers? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!