Five years, 692 tackles, 17 sacks, 12 forced fumbles, five Pro Bowls, four fumble recoveries, five interceptions, 40 passes defensed and two defensive touchdowns. Patrick Willis has been an absolute freak for the San Francisco 49ers since he first took the field in Candlestick Park.
For four of those years, Willis had not experienced team success, just individual accomplishments. In 2011, he finally had his first taste of winning in the NFL and he liked it. Willis sat down with ESPN Radio on the Scott Van Pelt Show and talked about his team and the approach to next season.
Willis said, "The success we had last offseason, we have no choice to but to take this offseason and act as if it's brand new again. And have that same work ethic we had last year when we started as one, and make it that much bigger."
The All-Pro seems determined to make himself and his team regular contenders after tasting success at the pro level—he wants a Championship, if not a few. "Man, it felt amazing. For the first time in my career I got to know what it feels like to be one of those teams...to finally get a chance to be in the playoffs and be one game away (from the Super Bowl)."
He's bettered himself each season it seems. Willis has remained successful every year he's been in the league, establishing himself as the best linebacker in the NFL. The defense is largely a product of Patrick Willis, much like the Ravens are with Ray Lewis. And like Lewis, Willis knows what it takes to improve yourself and those around you.
"Just to be consistent. I know, and everyone knows that consistency is what you're measured by. And in order to be consistent, you have to be willing to go out there every day and work. And work and work and work," Willis told Van Pelt.
We're beginning to see the rest of the defense, and soon the entire team catch up to Willis' level. For instance, if you take a look at Willis' number of tackles as a rookie (174) compared to last year (97), it's shocking. It just means more guys are contributing now more than ever. And it shows on the film.
With an entire offseason of an improved 49er offense getting reps against the league's No. 1 defense, we're bound to see another leap from San Francisco. The motto of Willis, and the motto of the Niners is to ultimately get better every day, every year; I believe they will.
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