49ers All-Time Inside Linebacker #1

Since the start of training camp, I got a little distracted and forgot to throw up the next All-Time team poll.  Our last vote was on the #2 OLB for our team; a vote won by Dave Wilcox in a narrow 8 vote victory over Keena Turner.  Now that our two outside linebackers are set, we move to the inside linebackers.  I'm throwing this up today before the game so hopefully everybody participating in the open thread (and those just passing by) can drop their vote.

For those who don't notice, I've withheld Patrick Willis's name from the ballot.  I was actually quite tempted to include him considering his all-world rookie season.  However, I elected to withhold his name, barring a barrage of complaints in the comments.  We included Frank Gore in the running back vote in part because he had put together more than just one good season.  I'm actually feeling rather conflicted on this.  If enough people want Willis included I'd certainly be willing to reset the vote, but I think for now it's fine.  My thought on this is that in the coming years, as eligible candidates arise we can reopen some of these votes (for instance, if Gore starts setting career 49ers records we would definitely consider him in the ballot versus Roger Craig, as with Patrick Willis and others).  I'd love to hear people's thoughts on this.

Ken Norton (1994-2000): Although he was an integral member of Cowboys back-to-back Super Bowl champs, 49ers fans quickly warmed to the tackling machine.  Norton was a big time playmaker earning two trips to the Super Bowl and a berth on the All-Pro Team in 1995.  Although he saw a decrease in his tackles with the 49ers, he was an integral part of the Super Bowl squad, as he become the first person to win 3 straight Super Bowl titles.  His trademark was punching the goal post after a good play, in tribute to his father, the former heavyweight champion.

Matt Hazeltine (1955-1968): Hazeltine played more seasons with the 49ers at inside linebacker than anybody else in team history.  He was selected to two Pro Bowls and was the captain of the 49ers for five seasons.  Upon his death in 1987 from ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), the 49ers created the Matt Hazeltine "Ironman" Award, given to the most courageous and inspirational defensive player.

Gary Plummer (1994-1997): One could argue he's a reason for including Willis.  Plummer was an impact player who only played on the 49ers the last four seasons of his career.  The 49ers were on the cusp of the Super Bowl when Plummer and Norton were brought in as part of the group to put them over the top.  Plummer was a Bay Area man, attending community college in Fremont, earning his degree at UC Berkeley and playing three seasons for the Oakland Invaders of the USFL.  Plummer now writes for sf49ers.com

Michael Walter (1984-1993): After being drafted by the Cowboys and spending one season in Big D, Walter left for the Bay Area, where he played for ten seasons and on three Super Bowl squads.  Walter was a relatively low key, but integral member of those Super Bowl squads.  He led the team in tackles in 1987 and played as an ILB in the 3-4 alongside Bill Romanowski and also as an MLB in the 4-3.

Frank Nunley (1967-1976): Nunley was a hard-hitting MLB in the Dick Nolan flex defense of the 70s.  While he could make the tackles, Nunley was also a bit of a ballhawk, hauling in 14 interceptions in his career, including a career-high 4 in 1974.  Due to his "sweet disposition" off the field and his powerful tackling, Nunley was nicknamed Fudge Hammer (and no I'm not kidding).

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