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49ers LB Patrick Willis wins The Butkus Award: How great will he be?

I didn't know this until yesterday, but apparently Dick Butkus has an award called The Butkus Award. Prior to the 2008 season, this was strictly a college award. The award apparently honors "athletics achievement and service to the community." The award has gone to college linebackers since 1985 (Brian Bosworth won the first two).  Beginning in 2008 they started giving the award to a high school linebacker and an NFL linebacker as well.  The 2008 winner was DeMarcus Ware.

This year, our very own Patrick Willis took home the award receiving 12 first place votes and 50 total points.  We have a list of voters after the jump, but I don't really know how the points are broken down. The panel includes scouts, coaches, and journalists. I don't think the victory was unanimous or overwhelming, but a win is a win. DeMarcus Ware finished 2nd with 6 first place votes and 39 total points. Bamm Bamm also won the college version of the award in 2006.  Rolando McClain won the college version this year.

Willis is clearly an awesome linebacker. If he's not the best inside linebacker in the NFL, he's pretty close. We've gone down the stats ad nauseum so there is nothing new on that front. He's an athletics and statistical freak.

However, I thought it'd be fun to ponder just where his career is headed. At his current pace, Bamm Bamm is going to be a Hall-of-Famer. The question becomes how high up the summit will he go?  In 2019, nine years away, the NFL will likely be releasing their 100th anniversary team (the 75th team was announced in 1994).  At that point, Willis will have been in the NFL 12. If he stays healthy, will we be a 12-time Pro Bowler?  An 8-10 time All Pro?  Throw in some gaudy stats and I know most 49ers fans would vote for him.

In briefly looking at Wikipedia's list of the 75th anniversary team, the linebackers are Dick Butkus, Jack Ham, Ted Hendricks, Jack Lambert, Willie Lanier, Ray Nitschke, and Lawrence Taylor.  There have been some great linebackers since 1994, so the competition will be stiff.  Will we see Bamm Bamm on the list at the end of the decade?

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