A lot of people use disappointment, heartache, and someone not wanting them as fuel to spark success in their life. San Francisco 49ers All Pro linebacker Patrick Willis wasn’t always the dominating middle linebacker you see today.
Willis is from Bruceton, Tennessee, and as you can guess He wanted so bad to be a Vol. To disappointment and obviously something that pushed him for a long time, The University of Tennessee never came calling. Willis admits to the Tennessean that crushed him.
“Yes I did. I was a Vols fan growing up. That was like America’s Team. I wanted to go there so bad. After every (high school) game my dad and I would get in the car and drive five hours to go to Knoxville to watch them play on an unofficial visit. This was on our gas money and our time. I just wanted to show them how bad I wanted to be there,” Willis said.
“I can’t forget being there and you have all these other big-time recruits there and they are shaking their hands and the coaches are talking to them. The coaches never shook my hand. They never talked to me. One day I just got tired of doing that. My senior year, I remember going up and saying, ‘Coach I see all of the other guys getting love. I really want to come here. I’m interested in coming here. Do you have something for me? Maybe a scholarship offer? Maybe something just saying you want me?’ ”
Willis eventually became an All American at Ole Miss, and hindsight being what it is, it worked out well for him.
I’ll never forget getting in the car with my foster dad and we’re riding home and I cried. I cried, not because I was sad, but more so because I knew how badly I wanted to be a Tennessee Vol. I knew what type of player I could be,” Willis said.
“I’m sorry that I didn’t go to a 5A school. I’m sorry that I wasn’t in a town that could be recognized, but we are what we are. We are in the situation that we’re in. The good Lord had a plan for me. I ended up going to Ole Miss. I went there and had a blast and had a great time playing football there. Here I am all these years later. The Lord had a plan for me.”
Misses like this by Tennessee could explain why they are where they are in the SEC right now. I did some research, and the best linebacker on their roster during Willis time at Ole Miss was Jerod Mayo, who’s been a pretty good linebacker for New England, but nowhere near the class of Willis.