June 12, 2012; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis (52) running drills during 49ers minicamp at San Francisco 49ers training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE
San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis is one of the most dominant players in the NFL. Heading into the last ten names of NFL's Top 100, Willis' spot has yet to be revealed. Since he entered the league, this has been a player that consistently performs with tenacity, relentlessness, and raw horsepower -- the guy is a bull shark in a sea of guppies.
It's astonishing to me how much he wow's the veteran announcer, who by this point in their careers, should have seen it all. But even they know that Patrick Willis isn't just some ordinary linebacker passing through the league; he's here to make a statement. I like the game day banter about Willis because it's said before the announcers have time to think it through, so more often than not, it's from the heart.
After watching plenty of game film reviewing this season, and viewing individual highlights of Willis, I've isolated same game day lines from the announcers calling the San Francisco 49ers game at that time. Some of these were when Willis made a play, and others when there was a break and they took the time to highlight Willis to the audience.
"You think this guy has sideline-to-sideline ability. He leads the NFL, and from a linebacker standpoint, in holy-smokes plays. Some of the things he can do from sideline-to-sideline are exclusive to Willis. He's all the way on the opposite sideline. He possesses that 4.4, 4.3 speed and he uses it on game day!" -Jon Gruden
"Ricky Williams got leveled by Patrick Willis...It's the ferocity of the hit which defines Patrick Willis," -Mike Mayock
"Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, they're as good as a tandem as there is in all of football. They're kind of carbon copies of each other, in terms of how they play - both sure tacklers, both run very, very well and they play downhill on the ball carrier," -Troy Aikman
"And Patrick Willis just showed us all that speed that Vic Fangio, his defensive coordinator was talking about!" -Joe Buck
"Patrick Willis burst onto the scene as a rookie in the NFL, and he just continues to get better and better every year. And that's one of the areas he's really improved on, his coverage skills," -Daryl Johnston
"And he is a special linebacker and you could tell from day one when he came to the 49ers organization, we had a game out here his rookie year, and he is exceptional. Physically talented, just has a complete passion for the game. And coach Fangio said ‘you couldn't ask for a better teammate,' he'll do anything you ask and you don't get that from a lot of the great players," -Daryl Johnston
It seems that announcers cannot seem to give enough admiration to the league's best linebacker -- and by now, everyone's come to terms that Willis is indeed the best. Willis had to pay his dues while Ray Lewis still continued his seemingly ageless reign of greatness. Willis has stepped on the scene and he's not going anywhere.
Fans, commentators, ex-players, analysts and scouts can all acknowledge Willis as one of the great ball players in the NFL today. Everyone respects him, as he complements his strong on-the-field performance with his high character. Willis is on a Hall of Fame pace -- one tackle at a time -- and if you know his story, it seems fitting that a Super Bowl appearance, victory (and possible MVP) would eventually be on his resume'.
It sure has been special watching Willis explode onto the scene; watching him evolve and the team grow with his capacity for the game. He is a staple in the 49ers organization, and while many of us were too young to remember Jerry Rice's career in it's entirety, there are parallels to be made. There is a level of greatness consistently put on display, and both players were being called Hall of Famers well before their playing days were over.
Could it be that San Francisco fielded the greatest wide receiver ever, the greatest quarterback ever, and now, the greatest linebacker ever? Time will tell but it's certainly beginning to look that way.
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