HILLSIDE, NJ – Hillside High senior football standout Shadon Willis is living proof of what can be accomplished by those who set their minds to it and never give up.

“Growing up, I always knew that I would succeed no matter what my situation was if I put my mind to it and focused,” Willis said.

On Tuesday, Willis was recognized for his talents and determination to succeed when he was presented with the “Heart of a Giant” award from Giants offensive guard Nate Solder.

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“Look past the things that may hold you back, instead focus on the permanent things,  your family, faith and people around you that really matter,” Solder said.  “Whatever you do work at it with all of your heart, you don’t have to worry about what other people think, your vision and your faith is between you and God.”

Willis, a wide receiver/defensive back for the Hillside football team, led the Comets to their second straight NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 2 state championship and into the first-ever Group 2 South “Bowl” game played a MetLife Stadium, home of the Giants.

“I couldn’t have chosen a better player, Shadon is an amazing player and has overcame a lot, I couldn’t have chosen a better candidate,” Hillside football coach Barris Grant said.

Dr. Samuel Taylor from Hospital for Special Surgery was the presenting partner, " I was very impressed with Shadon, he truly represents " Heart of a Giant". 

During Hillside’s 11-1 campaign, Willis made 26 catches for 647 yards and 11 touchdowns; averaged 12.4 yards per rush in running for 3 TDs, and made 47 tackles, caused two fumbles, picked off three passes and returned one for a touchdown. Overall, he ended with 15 touchdowns, accounting for 90 points scored by the Comets.

“In every dark tunnel, there is light at the end of it, you simply have to find it, no matter how much darkness try’s to block your light,” Willis said,

He plans on making his college choice in the spring with the hope to major in business. Willis plans help the next generation by telling them that no matter where you come from our situation is, you can pull through. One of his biggest advocates were the members of his family. He explained how his family is always there at every game, and they’ve helped him develop into the young man that he is today.


“I told Shadon at the beginning of this process, if he tells the world his story and continues to be the young man he is, there is no reason he will not win The Heart of a Giant Award,” Hillside teacher Erica Sala Della Cuna said. “So looking at him today, with that award in his hands, makes me so proud.

“He was brave and humble in telling his story and I respect and admire him for that. Today was an example of how far he has come, how much he has grown and all the opportunities that await him in the future.”