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When San Francisco 49ers legend Patrick Willis opened his eyes after his sister, Ernicka, brought him to his front door, his bright smile immediately came to his face. 

Willis stared at Pro Football Hall of Famer and fellow 49ers great Bryant Young, who was donning his gold jacket. 

As a finalist for the Hall himself, Willis knew exactly what Young, the camera crew and everyone else present meant: He was voted into the Hall of Fame. 

After the smiles and laughs came the waterworks for Willis, who spoke to Fox News Digital after reflecting on that moment when he learned he was heading to Canton, Ohio. 

“One thing I can say now: To be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, no one can take that away from me,” Willis said while discussing his love for CoachTube. 

This was the third year Willis became a finalist, and after missing out twice, the thought naturally creeps in the brain: Is what I did good enough? 


Willis knows he was a great player during his career from 2007 as the 11th overall pick out of Ole Miss to San Fran. But he played eight seasons, ending his career surprisingly after the 2014 campaign. 

He no longer needs to think about the what-ifs.

“We always used to say at the end of the year when you look up on the stat sheet and see how many sacks you have, or how many interceptions, or how many tackles, they don’t recall how you got them,” Willis explained. “They just see you got them. It’s kinda what this feels like to me now that I don’t have that feeling like, ‘Man, what else did I have to prove?’”

Willis told Fox News Digital prior to being voted into the Hall that he always played the game wanting “to be one of them,” referring to the legends that are forever enshrined in Canton with their gold busts. 

“If one person could remember me, that would be awesome. It seems like a little bit more than one is remembering, so I’m grateful for that,” he said. 

But walking away from the game at 30 years old was no easy task for Willis. He knew it was time, especially after playing just six games during the regular season in his final year. 

Patrick Willis on field

As he looks back, there’s still no regret. 

“At the end of the day, for what it’s worth, you can always say what if, or you should have,” he explained. “But I was blessed to play the time I was given, and the results were what they were, and I’ll say judge me off those and not by what you think I could’ve done. If you’re going off those numbers, perhaps they’re good enough. 

“At the end of the day, it’s up to those who are voting.”

The voters believes the 950 combined tackles, 733 of which were solo, 20.5 sacks, 16 forced fumbles and eight interceptions, two of which resulted in pick-sixes, were enough.

Willis admitted, “I don’t know what I’m going to say, or how I’m going to say it,” when he walks up on that podium at Hall of Fame Stadium later this year. He’s sure the emotions will be there, too. 

Patrick Willis looks on field

But like Willis said, no matter what you may think about him walking away early in his career, he did enough to earn eternal greatness. 

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