Patrick Willis Always Knew That He was Going to be ‘Special’

Patrick Willis hit a lot of notes in his final trip to the podium at Levi’s Stadium.

Entertaining, honest and funny. And classy. Very classy.

Patrick Willis is one hell of a public speaker.

“I’ll never forget being eight years old, watching TV, and seeing all these lights go off,” said Willis on Tuesday afternoon, as he stood before a packed auditorium in Santa Clara to announce his retirement from the NFL. “And [I] only had three channels growing up. Seven, 11 and 16. And on channel seven, the Dallas Cowboys would always come on.”

“And I’ll never forget this night. Monday night, I’m watching and I see all these lights go off, and I say to myself, in this small town that I grew up in, you can hear the crickets outside, you know,.you walk outside and you can see the streetlights.”

“And the only thing you can think to yourself when you see the lights go off is: “Man, one day I’m going to be be special. All them lights are going to be shinning on me like that. I’m going to be special.’ ”

It turns out that the eight-year-old was spot on. Patrick Willis was one hell of a middle linebacker.

Drafted by the San Francisco 49ers with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2007 draft, Willis went on rack up seven Pro-Bowl nods and become a five-time All-Pro. Even though he retired at the age of 30, Canton should be in his future.

Not that Willis is worried about that kind of thing: “In my mind, I’m already a Hall of Famer.”

The linebacker also shed some light on his unexpected decision to hang it up after eight seasons.

“I want to be continuously great, from the time I come in to the time I end.”

As Willis explained, his feet simply won’t allow him to play at that level anymore.

“At this point in time, given the history, given what I understand, given what I understand today, oh man, these feet, boy, boy, boy.”

But it’s not just the feet. He’s also happy—really happy.

“I made no excuses, but I tell you these things have worked, and they have worked, and they have worked, and they have worked and they have worked to a point where today, I am blessed to get to say that I get to retire happy. I get to retire, saying, like you know what, whatever I choose to wake up and do tomorrow, is because I’ve earned the right to do it because of the passion I’ve had.”

His brilliant NFL career is over, but Willis is supremely content.

“I told [general manager] Trent [Baalke] something earlier, I said: ‘Man, I don’t know if I feel happier today than I did the day I came in,’ And that says something to me.”

“Man, I’m happy.”



Listen to Willis’ press conference below:

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