In the summer of 1995, when the San Francisco 49ers were defending Super Bowl champs, 10-year-old Patrick Willis was working full time in Tennessee cotton fields to help support his family.

Willis' mother had left the family six years earlier. His father was blowing Willis' earnings on alcohol and drugs.

By 2007, when the 49ers made Willis the 11th player chosen in the NFL draft, Willis and his siblings were estranged from their father. They had lost a brother, Detris, to a drowning accident a year earlier.