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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Former NFL columnist offers a nostalgic look at Patrick Willis’ 49ers career

Jul 2, 2017 at 8:03 PM--

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In an effort to preserve his health, former San Francisco 49ers All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis abruptly retired from the NFL during the 2015 offseason. It was a decision that many of the Niner Faithful understood but were still shocked and disappointed by.

Willis seemingly had much of his career ahead of him and the decision to end his pro football career was a brave one. Because his career was cut so drastically short, there are some who believe his resume is not long enough to make the linebacker a Pro Football Hall of Fame candidate. Of course, there are others who argue that his accomplishments while he did play, and the fact that he remained one of the top players at his position year-after-year, make him a legitimate candidate for one of pro football's greatest honors.

The argument against Willis was the same that many used for former Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis, who, like the ex-Niner, dominated his position during his abbreviated career. Davis, who played just seven seasons and participated in just 17 games over his final three seasons, will enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame next month.

Willis compiled over 100 tackles in a season six times during his eight-year career, including the 174 that led the league during his rookie 2007 season and earned him the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Willis went on to finish in the top seven in tackles four times during his career. He would also be selected to seven Pro Bowls and was named First-team All-Pro five times.

But statistics never mattered to Willis when it came to his NFL legacy.

"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," Willis said during an interview on 95.7 The Game in February. "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."

Former CSN Bay Area web producer Dylan DeSimone, who was also a columnist for both Bleacher Report and SB Nation, recently created a number of tweets that look at the play of Willis over his career and how the linebacker "changed the league-wide perception of the defense." It's a fun set of tweets for anyone who is feeling nostalgic and wants to relive the sheer speed and viciousness of the Bay Area icon. It also serves as a good argument for anyone wanting to show that Willis indeed belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In March, DeSimone also wrote an article that argues the case for Willis belonging in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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