When Patrick Willis stepped up to the San Francisco 49ers podium in March 2015, he had tears in his eyes as he explained why he was walking away from the NFL after eight stellar seasons.
Today, Willis is one of 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2024 for the third consecutive year.
It is an honor every NFL players dreams of as they enter the league – the chance for their legacy to live forever in Canton, Ohio. Although voters passed on Willis the last two years, he is nominated again to have his bust join the likes of legends.
"I just wanted to be one of them," Willis told Fox News Digital, referring to the legends in Canton. "If one person could remember me, that would be awesome. It seems like a little bit more than one is remembering, so I’m grateful for that. But whatever is to be, shall be."
Usually, players in the Hall are ones that have amassed years upon years of service time in the league, performing at the highest level to garner the right to live forever in Canton. However, at 30 years old, Willis knew that it was his time to walk away from the game.
Of course, 49ers fans, and all football fans for that matter, were shocked to see one of the greatest middle linebackers to ever strap on pads call it quits. However, Willis said then he knew it was time.
"Y’all have seen me, I had a surgery. Break my hand on a Sunday, have surgery Monday and play on a Thursday with a cast on. I’ve done it numerous times, and y’all have seen it," Willis said that day in March 2015. "But it’s something about these feet. When you don’t have no feet. For me, that’s what made me who I am."
Almost nine years later, Willis still feels the way he did then.
"At the end of the day, for what it’s worth, you can always say what if, or you should have," he explained to Fox News Digital. "But I was blessed to play the time I was given, and the results were what they were, and I’ll say judge me off those and not by what you think I could’ve done. If you’re going off those numbers, perhaps they’re good enough. At the end of the day, it’s up to those who are voting, and I’m just honored to be a finalist and just want to shout out all my teammates and coaches throughout the years and time that helped me be able to become what I was."
Willis played 112 games in the regular season, all for the 49ers, the team that drafted him 11th overall out of Ole Miss in the 2007 NFL Draft. He tallied 950 combined tackles, 733 of which were solo, with 20.5 sacks, 16 forced fumbles and eight interceptions, two of which went back for pick-sixes.
His speed and relentless ability to go sideline to sideline for the football carrier made him an indispensable player for San Francisco, and the rest of the league recognized him with five All-Pro nods and seven Pro Bowls. He was also named to the All-2010s Hall of Fame team.
So, as Willis continues to live his life to the fullest post-football, he knows that getting the call that he is in the Hall of Fame – if it ever were to come – would be a testament to the hard work he put himself through to the point where he had nothing left to give.
"It would be a full circle [moment]," he said. "I don’t want to change my perspective on how I always thought about this thing. If you go back to my press conference the day I retired and heard the things I said about it, I still feel the same way now. It’s a great honor."
Willis remains extremely active despite his playing days being over, and he could not do so without Nirvana Super wellness beverages helping him out with his rigorous training.
His former teammate, Donte Whitner, introduced him to Nirvana Super and its "muscle guardian" ingredient, HMB, which is a substance produced when your body metabolizes the essential amino acid leucine, which you get from your diet. The beverage brand aims to enhance muscle performance, recovery, hydration and wellness all in one – something Willis now cannot live without.
"Staying fit and staying active is good for the body, good for the mind. And then when you have the right product and you’re taking the right – I don’t even want to call it a supplement. When you’re taking the right product, you tend to do your body a good favor. Just honored to be a part of Nirvana Super."