The National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame announced the ballot for 2018, and retired San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis is among the 75 players. A player becomes eligible once ten full seasons have passed since his final year. Willis last played for Mississippi in 2006. The 2018 induction class will be announced Jan. 8, 2018, in Atlanta, prior to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, and the induction ceremony will be Dec. 4, 2018.
Willis put together an amazing career with the 49ers, but it was preceded by a dominant career at Ole Miss. He was named first team All-SEC and All-American his junior and senior seasons. He claimed the 2006 SEC Defensive Player of the Year and Butkus Award, given to the top linebacker in the country. He led the nation in solo tackles as a junior, and had 265 total tackles over the course of his final two seasons. He finished his career ranked No. 6 all time at Ole Miss in total tackles.
Last year, ten players were among the College Football Hall of Fame inductees. Some notable names on this year’s ballot alongside Willis include Charles Woodson, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Troy Polamalu. It’s interesting to note that Eric Dickerson remains on the ballot, in spite of having played his college football in the 80s. Several players have had to wait a long time, but there is some thought that SMU’s illegal payment program for players during the 70s and 80s might be costing him. There is a certain hypocrisy in all of this, but that is a discussion that could go on for days.
One notable eligibility requirement is that, “a player must have received First-Team All-America recognition by a selector organization that is recognized by the NCAA and utilized to comprise their consensus All-America teams.” That means players like Joe Montana, Tom Brady, and Joe Namath are never going to be eligible for the Hall of Fame. All American honors are subjective measurements, but given how many different voting entities there are for All American honors, I suppose it makes some sense.
Willis retired from the 49ers following the 2014 season due to an accumulation of foot injuries. He played eight seasons, and it is going to make for an intriguing discussion when he becomes eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A player must be retired at least five seasons, so he will be eligible in 2020. If he had stayed healthy, he was well on his way to first ballot status. He still could earn that given how great he was during his career, but it will be interesting to see how voters handle his candidacy. I feel like Terrell Davis gave him a boost in terms of an injury-shortened career. Davis has the advantage of two Super Bowl wins (and one Super Bowl MVP award) and surpassing the notable “2,000 yard” rushing mark. Willis played in one Super Bowl, and did not have a magical number attached to his name. However, he was a Pro Bowler every season but his final injury shortened season, and he was an All Pro in his first six seasons. I think it’s deserving, but there will be extensive debate in the voting room when 2020 rolls around.
Will Patrick Willis be inducted into the PRO FOOTBALL Hall of Fame on the first ballot?
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