Best rookie seasons in San Francisco 49ers history: No. 3: FB, Ken Willard (1965)
The 49ers have had some great luck drafting fullbacks; it’s a dying breed, but that’s now three in a row who were able to hit the ground running, if you excuse the pun.
Ken Willard was the second-overall pick in the 1965 draft, so expectations were high for the North Carolina star. He met them immediately. He carried the ball 189 times for 778 yards and five touchdowns, topping 1,000 yards when you add in his receiving numbers. As a rookie, Willard was the fourth-leading rusher in the NFL, behind two Hall of Famers in Jim Brown and Gale Sayers. Willard handled a heavy workload right from the start; only three players had more than his 221 touches as a rookie.
He earned a much-deserved Pro Bowl nod for his work.
A powerful rusher, Willard ended up being one of the 49ers’ key contributors when they reached the NFC Championship in 1970 and 1971, and he retired as the eighth-leading rusher in NFL history.
All that started as a rookie, when Willard showed that he was worth every bit of that second overall pick.