4 former 49ers who need to be in Pro Football Hall of Fame

Former San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Former San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers
Patrick Willis #52 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

49ers Player No. 3: Linebacker Patrick Willis

If injuries didn’t cut Patrick Willis’ NFL career short, forcing an early retirement in 2015, there would be no doubt the seven-time Pro Bowler and five-time first-team All-Pro would have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer once he was eligible.

Surprisingly, however, he wasn’t inducted once the five-year waiting period expired, much to his former Niners teammate and another possible Hall of Fame candidate, left tackle Joe Staley, being surprised.

Staley said as much on 95.7 The Game (h/t 49ers Webzone), recently after Willis’ induction into the team’s Hall of Fame:

"I think, hopefully, it’s the start of many different Hall of Fames. You know, the big one (Pro Football Hall of Fame). I’m kind of surprised that he’s not in that one yet as well, just because of how dominant he was as a player when he played with us … our whole career together at the 49ers. He’s a great dude, and I’m really happy (for him)."

Despite an abbreviated career, Willis still holds a franchise record for tackles (733) and held the league lead in that category during both his rookie 2007 season with 174 and again in 2009 with 152.

Of all the linebackers of the era, few ever came anywhere close to the kind of impact Willis provided, both on the field as a playmaker and as a team leader.