Former San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis may not hit the Pro Football hall of fame due to his shorter than most career, however he’s up for the next best thing: The college football hall of fame.
The 2019 ballot was released Monday and none other than Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis is listed there. He’s got some stiff competition. Ray Lewis, Vince Young, and Tony Gonzales are also among the better known names on the ballot.
Willis does have an impressive resume. When he played in college for the Ole Miss Rebels he was an absolute force on the field to be feared. He was selected to 13 first team All-American squads, the most even by a Rebel player in a single season. He also won the Butkus award and Lambert trophy in 2006. He also was twice SEC Defensive player of the year. This isn’t even the end of his accolades.
The problem is, as great of a resume Willis has, he’s up against some stiff competition. Lewis, Young, and others are just as phenomenal players with their own accolades. Willis also made the ballot in 2018, but didn’t make it in. In many ways, given the numbers of college players vs the NFL, it could be harder to make it in given how oversaturated college football players are.
One thing to note about college though is to be eligible, “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 and Tom Brady aren’t ever going to make it in. It’s all subjective when you get voted to All-American teams, but it’s certainly interesting nevertheless.
Willis retired from the 49ers following the 2014 season due to nagging foot injuries. There’s already been debates from 49ers fans on if he should go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A player must be retired for five seasons, so he won’t be eligible until 2020. Had Willis not had a shortened career there’s not a doubt he’d be in the Hall of Fame at some point, though if it’s a first ballot would be another discussion entirely given how the voting has shaked out in recent years. Super Bowl wins certainly help the case and there’s no telling if he would have had one. He was a Pro Bowler every season but his final injury shortened season, and he was an All Pro in his first six seasons which helped his case. He definitely will come up in 2020, but I’m not sure if he’ll get past maybe a name drop.