Two-sport NSU standout, former major leaguer Jim Willis is Demons’ Great of the Game

WillisCubs

There is a piece of Jim Willis that never will leave Brown-Stroud Field.

When Willis returns to Northwestern State’s campus Saturday, it won’t be to see his retired No. 28 that graces the center field wall at NSU’s baseball field.

Instead, Willis will be honored as the Demon Great of the Game during Northwestern State’s football game against Abilene Christian. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at Turpin Stadium, and Willis will be honored during the first quarter.

Willis became the first Northwestern State alumnus to appear in the major leagues, debuting in 1953 with the Chicago Cubs. Willis pitched two seasons with Chicago, going 2-2 with a 3.39 ERA in 27 appearances.

Willis, a Doyline native, was a two-sport standout at Northwestern State and a World War II veteran who served the U.S. Army in occupied Germany in 1945-46.

He was inducted in the N-Club Hall of Fame in 1976.

Much like fellow MLB and NSU alum Lee Smith, Willis’ Demons career was more noted for what he did on the hardwood than on the diamond.

Willis was part of the 1948-49 Northwestern State basketball team that reached the national semifinals under legendary coach H. Lee Prather.

His No. 28 baseball jersey was retired prior to the 2009 season, joining Brian Lawrence (29), Jim Wells (17) and Billie Roy Cook (10) as NSU baseball players with retired jerseys.

Willis began his professional baseball career in 1949 with Alexandria and pitched for the Shreveport Sports from 1951-52 before signing with the Cubs.

Willis is the author and illustrator of “My Baseball Story,” which chronicles his childhood, Army service and baseball career.

A Demon Great of the Game is spotlighted at each NSU home football game. Former NFL players Petey Perot and Keith Thibodeaux and iconic two-sport letterman and beloved coach Johnnie Emmons were NSU greats honored at the first three home games this season.