The San Francisco 49ers are one of the NFL’s glory franchises. The team went on a fantastic 18-season run that saw the Niners win five Super Bowls, 13 NFC West titles and only missed the playoffs twice from 1981-1998.
The community on this site is full of fans who have been cheering on the team at different points over the last 40-50 years.
I figured it would be a good time for you to share who your favorite 49er of all time is. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the best player, although if Jerry Rice is your favorite, tell us why.
It could be a player you felt connected to for one reason or another, an underappreciated Niner or someone whose game you respected.
As an 80s baby, I was too young to appreciate the Bill Walsh, Rice, and Joe Montana led teams. I have some memories from the Steve Young years, despite not even being a teenager during the early part of that stretch. At the end of Young’s run, I was in high school and still remember being pissed about the Garrison Hearst injury, the three picks, and the close 20-18 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the 1998 playoffs.
The truth is, San Francisco has not been a very good team for most of my adult life. Other than the Harbaugh years and 2019, the 49ers squads have ranged from terrible to mediocre.
Still, I have quite a few options to choose from. Some of the players who came to mind are: Steve Young, Justin Smith, NaVorro Bowman, Terrell Owens, and Colin Kaepernick (yes, I said it. If he played another four to five seasons at the level he did in 2012, it wouldn’t have been close for me.)
It came down to one player for me, a monster who started to make me hopeful again when the Niners picked him in 2007, and that is Patrick Willis. It was great getting to catch up with Willis recently to discuss retirement and his thoughts on the latest edition of the 49ers.
Willis came in and dominated from his first game, winning AP Defensive Rookie of the Year and being named a first-team All-Pro his inaugural season. He just got better from there.
The linebacker had the rare combination of speed, ferociousness, and leadership that made him the face of the defense.
He and Bowman will always be the best linebacking tandem I had ever seen and were a huge reason why the 49ers became contenders again when Jim Harbaugh took over.
It is too bad the Niners couldn’t finish the job and win a Super Bowl before Willis retired due to a nagging foot issue after the 2014 season.
Willis played eight seasons with the franchise, racking up 950 tackles (60 for a lass), 20.5 sacks and eight interceptions.
Although his time in the league wasn’t as long as we all wanted, he still is my favorite 49er of all time.
Who is your favorite 49er of all time?