The NFL narrowed down the modern-era Hall of Fame Class of 2020 down to 25 semifinalists, and a few former 49ers made the cut. Patrick Willis and Bryant Young advanced to the next round. It’s hard to believe Willis has been retired for five years already. Some have said it felt like longer, while others mentioned it’s been a tough five years without arguably the best linebacker to ever do it.
Both Willis and Young are two of seven first0time semifinalists that were announced Tuesday. The list of candidates was trimmed down from 122 nominees. Former San Francisco running back Ricky Watters was also a semifinalist. Willis was one of three players that were first-time eligible that was voted into the top-25. Former Steelers safety Troy Polamalu and Reggie Wayne were the other two.
49ers general manager John Lynch was a semifinalist as well. This is the eighth year in a row that’s happened to Lynch. Isaac Bruce, who played for the 49ers from 2008-09, was also a semifinalist.
Here’s what Willis told NFL Network’s Steve Wyche:
“I’m truly honored. Just those names that you just named (Brian Urlacher, Mike Singletary, Dick Butkus) were guys that I looked up to before I got to the NFL, and just to be mentioned in the same story as them is just truly a blessing. I’m truly honored, and I’m grateful for it. What I wanted to do is just be mentioned when guys talk about defense, when they talked about great players,” Willis said. “I know now that I’m done, when people talk about football, they mention Patrick, and for me, that goes a long way. So as far as making it to the Hall of Fame, I would say when it happens one day, I’ll be grateful. Right now, I’m just enjoying the ride.”