I'm going to start this off by saying that there is no way that I can write anything that will do this guy justice. But I figured I'd give it my best. Patrick Willis is a player that is hard to describe without coming off as someone with a total mancrush for the guy, which I definitely do not have.
Alright, I'm lying to you. I have a huge mancrush on the guy, don't even act like all of you don't. What negatives can you find about P-52? He has all the best aspects of some of the league's greatest linebackers. It's really hard to look at a current player, and compare him to a great without suffering at least a little bit of hubris. When Cardinals fans compare Larry Fitzgerald to some of the best wide receivers in the game, it's like, "wait, what?" But it's acceptable to a point.
If it's OK for Fitz, then it's certainly alright for Patrick Willis. There are several names that come to mind when you think of Patrick Willis, if you try and place a past name to him. Mike Singletary, Dick Butkus, Ray Lewis, even Jack Lambert come to mind. Some of the best linebackers in NFL history, and their makeup seems to be the blueprint for the seemingly unstoppable machine that is Patrick Willis.
To call each of these players a cog in a great design can be considered an insult, but please know that I have massive respect for all of those men. The intensity of Mike Singletary, the strength of Dick Butkus, the intelligence of Ray Lewis, and the speed of Jack Lambert. I don't think anyone can top the intensity of Mike Singletary, but he's definitely got more speed than Lambert. I list Lambert because he is one of the only truly "great" linebackers in the league who were actually known for quickness. Willis is an athletic freak and has the strength to pull anyone down and knock anyone to the ground. He has some hard hits, and given more time, will be truly feared as opposed to just a player that is game-planned around.
We haven't really witnessed a player to put things together that well. You look at Ray Lewis in Baltimore, the consensus best active middle linebacker for a long time now. And yet, Willis looks to have everything he has, just a little bit faster. We see him pursuing angles just a little better than Ray has, we see him cover better than Ray has--and again, not a knock on Lewis. He is a first ballot hall of famer. But Willis is just, as I've put it before, a whole different monster.
The one thing that some perceive as a negative with Willis is his leadership qualities, folks want him to be more vocal. Singletary has professed that it's not an issue and I personally believe him, but I think Willis will get more and more vocal as he matures. It's his place to take if he wants it, that's clear.
I guess what I'm getting at is that Willis has the tools to be one of the best linebackers to ever play the game. He's showed that kind of promise, and he's only in his third season, how scary is that? Singletary has said that Willis is making progress every day, getting better each day, which is a crazy thought, but it's true. He looks better every time I see the guy.
Willis grew up playing tackle football, and as seems to be the case with a lot of these players, didn't have the best upbringing, but if you looked at him you'll never know it. Off the field Patrick is calm, cool, always smiling and always positive. He's a guy who always dreamt about making something for himself, so he could hold onto it. Nothing was a constant for Willis as a boy, his father made life tumultous, anything Willis earned on his own was eventually taken by him. So he strove to grow up, and make something for himself that he could keep. It's funny, if you ask him, he'll say his father was a great dad, even though he had all four of his kids taken away from him. Willis really has put things like that behind him.
I wish I had the time to extensively cover more on Willis. From his relationship with his siblings, to the death of his brother, his mother trying to get back into his life just before he realized his riches in the NFL. There's a lot to his story, but it's 5 AM and i must sleep. Let it be known that Patrick Willis is helluva guy, and a fantastic, fantastic player.
I'm interested to know--does anyone have anything negative to say about the guy?