Lincoln senior returns to distance learning in order to join his teammates on the field

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In 'Class of 2021,' FOX40 will follow a group of students whose senior year was upended by the coronavirus pandemic, documenting their challenges and accomplishments.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) – With the recent change that allows high school sports to start playing games in the state, many student athletes will have a senior season after all.

Although some, like Lincoln High School senior JT Willis, have made decisions just to ensure being on the field each week.

JT Willis wants to be, above all else, on the football field quarterbacking the Fighting Zebras, getting ready for a season that finally will begin for Lincoln High School in a week.

“We’re bumping heads, we’ve got the pads on, the music rolling, everyone is having a good time out here,” said Willis. “It’s been awesome. Super exciting to get out here with the guys. Just staying motivated all off-season that we would eventually get a season.”

Willis’ senior season is an important one for his advancement to college football in the fall.

He’s a changed young man, physically, from when schools last saw him play in a game in 2019.

“He had a very solid junior season, but he’s on a whole different level right now. It’s absolutely night-and-day. From a physical standpoint he’s put on about 25-to-30 pounds. He’s grown, he’s now 6 feet, 1 inch tall,” Lincoln football coach Chris Bean said.

“I’m able to run the ball a little more, I’m able to chuck the ball further so I want to be able to showcase more,” Willis said.

“People are going to look at the junior year of film and go, ‘OK, yeah I see potential,'” Bean told FOX40. “Well, his senior season right now, in this spring season, they’re going to be able to see the potential come to fruition on film.”

With a shortened spring season of just five or six games, Willis, like many seniors, has made the tough decision to return to distance learning from home.

“So, I don’t have to get quarantined and miss any games,” Willis said. “I sit by a lot of people in class, and if that one person ends up testing positive, I’m out two weeks. That was the biggest concern.”

It’s a decision, for now, that he’ll have to live with until he graduates in June.

“I just had to do what was right for me, and what was right for the team,” Willis said.

Lincoln’s first game is in a week at home against the Placer Hillman.

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