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An All-Michigan pick as both a linebacker and running back after his senior year of high school, Willekes (pronounced WILL-uh-KISS) still had to walk on at MSU. He immediately showed his worth on the scout team in 2015, earning the squad's player of the week award six times -- more than anyone else. Willekes only played in one game, though, in 2016 due to the Spartans' depth but exploded on the scene as a sophomore. He led the team with 14.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 2017 (73 total tackles), grabbing third-team All-Big Ten honors. League coaches named him their Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2018 after he finished in the top 10 nationally with 20.5 tackles for loss and led MSU with 8.5 sacks among his 78 stops. He suffered a broken left fibula in the team's bowl game, however, which kept him from jumping to the NFL. Willekes showed the toughness to return for all 13 games in 2019, garnering second-team all-conference notice after leading the Spartans with 16 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks among his 78 total stops (he also caused and recovered two fumbles).