A month ago I put up a post asking whether we should include Patrick Willis in our all-time voting process. My general concern was that Willis has performed exceedingly well, but it's been too short a time-span. Folks would vote for him because he's the hot topic of the day. Not a bad thing, but something I wanted to consider. So, I've decided to implement a rule for inclusion on this list. We'll call it the Gary Plummer rule. You have to have spent at least 4 seasons with the 49ers to be considered for inclusion.
Aside from meaning no Bamm Bamm, that also means we're going to drop Deion Sanders from consideration at cornerback. I had included Deion in the CB #2 voting originally, but this time around Prime Time will not be included. I realize Willis will likely reach that 4 year mark, but I think it makes it easiest to just go with this rule. For now, consider Bamm Bamm as an honorable mention.
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).
Who should be our #1 Inside Linebacker?
Ken Norton (325 votes)
Matt Hazeltine (52 votes)
Gary Plummer (88 votes)
Michael Walter (55 votes)
Frank Nunley (25 votes)
545 total votes