Patrick Willis says he will never use stats to define greatness

Feb 16, 2017 at 11:03 AM--


Former San Francisco 49ers All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis joined "Joe, Lo & Dibs" on 95.7 The Game and was asked about his hopes of one day getting into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. After all, former Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis made it this year despite a relatively short playing career. The same could be said of Willis, who retired from the NFL after just eight seasons. Davis played just seven seasons and participated in just 17 games over his final three seasons.

Davis had three spectacular seasons, rushing for over 1,500 yards in each and rushing for over 2,000 yards in 1998. Like Davis, Willis' level of play was high during his shortened career. He had over 100 tackles in six of his eight seasons and had over 140 tackles three times. During his rookie season (2007), he led the league with 174 tackles. But stats were never important to Willis.

"You know it's funny that after my first year in the league, I was compared to so many different other linebackers," Willis said. "Everybody from Ray Lewis to my linebackers coach at the time, Coach Singletary, to Jack Lambert to Dick Butkus. I mean, you just name it. Everybody kept comparing me to all these other people and I remember getting these tattoos that people would come to see later on and I would flex and it would say, 'I'm me.' And the reason that I got that tattoo was for the simple fact that I respect all those guys for what they did and the way they played their game at the level of consistency they played it. I have always told myself that when I came into the game, I would never judge myself by someone else's statistics to see whether I was great or not. I would base it off whether I done what I know I came into the game to do and I truly felt like I did that and that's why I was able to walk away from the game as I did.

"I'll never forget Coach Singletary telling me my rookie year -- First day of training camp, we had an altercation -- I think I told people before but he pretty much told me he didn't want me coming into the draft. He wanted Jon Beason and I'll never forget him telling me that because of some things that transpired during practice and pretty much what I had asked him at training camp meeting that night, he pretty much told me, long story short, what I took from it was: He said, 'You have to earn the right to be great and you have to earn that right to ask those kinds of questions that you asked tonight.'

"And I'll never forget leaving that practice facility telling myself that and going to my room and getting on my knees and saying, 'Lord, I don't know what it's going to take, but whatever it takes, I want to give it everything I've got and I want to earn the right to be great because I know that I am. I know that I'm meant to be here.' I never looked back and that was the one thing that I forever take with me."

You can listen to the entire interview on 95.7 The Game.



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