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49ers great Willis named Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist

NBC Sports
Patrick Willis

Linebacker Patrick Willis, one of the most dominant defensive players of his era with the 49ers, was named Thursday as a modern-era finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Willis, who retired after the 2014 season, is in his third year of Hall of Fame eligibility. This is his first time as a finalist.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame cut the list of modern-era candidates from 26 semifinalists to the 15 finalists through a voting of the 49-member selection committee.

Willis was a versatile, sideline-to-sideline tackler as an inside linebacker. The 49ers selected him with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. He led the NFL in tackles as a rookie in 2007 and, again, in 2009.

Willis was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his seven full seasons in the league. He was also a five-time All-Pro player. He appeared in just six games in 2014 after sustaining a foot injury. He announced his retirement in March of 2015.

He was named to the NFL All-Decade team of the 2010s. Willis was recently enshrined into the 49ers Hall of Fame during a ceremony at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.

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A maximum of five modern-era candidates will be inducted into the Hall of Fame’s class of 2022.

The new class, which will be unveiled Thursday, Feb. 10, could have up to eight new members with five modern-era inductees, along with consideration of senior finalist Cliff Branch, contributor finalist Art McNally and coach finalist Dick Vermeil.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area is on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Board of Selectors.


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