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Patrick Willis, Bryant Young among 15 modern-era finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame

DeMeco Ryans shares how he remembers watching Willis when he was at Ole Miss.

St. Louis Rams v San Francisco 49ers

On Thursday, a pair of former 49ers received news that they were finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Defensive tackle Bryant Young, who became eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2013, became a finalist for the second time.

Young was a four-time Pro Bowler, one-time All-Pro, and a Super Bowl champion. Young finished his career with 89.5 sacks. He was also the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year in 1999 after registering a career-best 11 sacks. Young sustained a fractured leg the season prior.

Former linebacker Patrick Willis was another one of the 15 finalists. 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans had this to say about Willis during his media availability Thursday:

“It’s a no-brainer that Patrick is a Hall of Famer. I remember Patrick at Ole Miss making every tackle, even with a big club on his hand. He’s always been a dominant player, from college through NFL. Patrick is one of the best linebackers to play the game. Talk about speed, physicality, smart. He’s everything you want in an inside linebacker, and he set the tone here (with the 49ers).”

Ryans also shared that when he was struggling with open-field tackles, linebackers coach Johnny Holland showed him game film of Willis. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better linebacker in this day and age than Willis. He changed the way the linebacker position is played.