In a result that shouldn't surprise many people, Ken Norton, Jr. ran away with the vote in the #1 inside linebacker poll. It's kind of intriguing that at this point his percentage is sitting at the same 58% as last time around. As mentioned previously, I've decided to implement the Gary Plummer Rule requiring a player to be with the team for at least four years to be eligible for this most esteemed of awards. That means no Patrick Willis at this point, although he's clearly on his way to rarified air in the pantheon of 49er greats. How about 13 tackles and an interception to kick off the 2009 season? Not too shabby Bamm Bamm.
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).