Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Willis praises 49ers LB Fred Warner: ‘Fred is exceptional’

Jul 2, 2021 at 6:12 PM--

While the 49ers prepare to honor one of their all-time great defensive players later this year when they induct linebacker Patrick Willis into their franchise Hall of Fame, it's possible they have another linebacker on their hands in Fred Warner who is in the early stages of a career that will eventually earn him the same distinction.

The 24-year-old Warner still has a lot of football ahead of him, but if he continues on the same trajectory he's on now (and eventually re-signs with the 49ers on a long-term deal), it's not a stretch to think he could one day join Willis in the 49ers Hall of Fame. Willis spoke about Warner during an interview on 95.7 The Game's Morning Roast Podcast Friday morning and had nothing but praise for the All-Pro linebacker, starting with his ability to consistently make plays.

"Fred is exceptional. He has played exceptional for the 49ers thus far, has been a leader on their defense, and really just (has a) nose for the ball," Willis said. "I'm a big fan of 'get to the ball.' I know you have your responsibilities, but there's no reason why you shouldn't always be somewhere near that ball. He's always around the ball. He's a playmaker."

Willis, who is listed online at 6'1", seems particularly impressed with Warner's size. Warner stands at 6'3", which Willis says combines with his athleticism to create a complete linebacker.

"What I like most about his game, he's tall. I stood beside him before and I'm like goddang, you're pretty tall," Willis said. "So he has the length but he uses it really well and moves well with his base. For me, I'm a big fan of that because I'm the type of person who I wanted to be an athlete. I didn't want to just be a middle linebacker. I wanted to be a guy who could do it all, whether it was cover a running back that was like a scatback, or get in a slot, or sometimes you're on an island by yourself. Again, he does it all really well. I don't really see too much I'm not impressed with."

Foot issues were a problem for Willis during his NFL career and eventually played their part in pushing him into early retirement after the 2014 season at age 30. He says health will be the big key for Warner if he wants to put together a great career.

"As long as you're healthy, you can keep on doing amazing things, and as long as he's healthy, I feel like he's going to be an amazing player," Willis said.

Hear what Willis said about Warner below:

Willis will be inducted into the 49ers Hall of Fame later this year along with wide receiver John Taylor and will be honored during a ceremony on December 19 when the 49ers host the Atlanta Falcons. He ended his interview on 95.7 with a message for any 49ers fans who were tuning in.

"I really, really appreciate all the love throughout the years," Willis said. "I hope I made each one who tuned in proud. I hope I wore the 49er red and gold proud. I just hope I left a mark."

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