Former Ole Miss, 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis selected to Pro Football Hall of Fame

Published 11:39 pm Thursday, February 8, 2024

LAS VEGAS — Ole Miss legend Patrick Willis joined football’s greatest fraternity Thursday when he was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Willis, who played eight seasons with the San Francisco 49ers from 2007-14, was one of seven NFL greats selected. Defensive linemen Julius Peppers, Dwight Freeney and Steve McMichael; wide receiver Andre Johnson; kick returner Devin Hester; and linebacker Randy Gradishar were introduced as the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2024 at the NFL Honors awards ceremony. They will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in August in Canton, Ohio.

Willis was the 49ers’ first-round draft pick in 2007, 11th overall out of Ole Miss, and had a brief but impactful NFL career.

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He immediately became a star with 174 tackles, four sacks, seven QB hits and eight tackles for loss on the way to winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

He was a first-team All-Pro five times in eight seasons and helped San Francisco reach three consecutive conference title games and one Super Bowl.

Willis finished his NFL career with 950 combined tackles (732 solo, 218 assists), 20.5 sacks, 16 forced fumbles, five fumbles recovered, eight interceptions and two defensive touchdowns.

Willis registered at least 100 tackles in six of his eight seasons. He finished one season with 97 tackles, and the other was cut short to six games due to injury.

In college, he was also one of Ole Miss’ all-time greats. The Tennessee native won the 2006 Conerly Trophy as the top college player in Mississippi and was a first-team All-American in 2005 and 2006. He won the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year award both seasons as well.

In addition to his on-field accomplishments, Willis earned Academic All-SEC honors and the 2007 Wilma Rudolph Student-Athlete Achievement Award. A 2015 inductee into the Ole Miss Sports Hall of Fame and 2020 inductee to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, he was selected to SI.com’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s.

Willis is only the third Ole Miss player selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He joins offensive linemen Bruiser Kinard (1970) and Gene Hickerson (2007).

Willis and Kinard are in even more exclusive company as the only two Rebels to now be part of both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame, with Willis inducted into the latter in 2019 and Kinard in 1951.

Willis was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his fifth year of eligibility, and it was his third time as one of the 15 finalists.