San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis had dreams growing up like any other kid who plays football. And like most others, not all of them came true. In the long term, Willis achieved his goal. He is an NFL linebacker and arguably the best in the game. However, Willis had one let down when he was still in high school that he says brought him to tears.
Willis grew up in Bruceton, Tenn. with dreams of playing for the University of Tennessee. To his disappointment, the Vols never showed any interest.
“I wanted to go there so bad,” Willis told The Tennessean on Monday. “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.”
It apparently had no effect. Tennessee never recruited Willis at any point during his senior year of high school. He ended up at Ole Miss, and from there he went on to be selected by the Niners in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft. Everything worked out for the best, but Willis was not shy in discussing how crushed he was that the Vols didn’t want him.
“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,” he explained. “The coaches never shook my hand. They never talked to me. …
“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.”
Tennessee missed out. Ole Miss is glad they did. As Willis put it, “The Lord had a plan for me.” Had he gone to Tennessee, who knows if he would have ended up being drafted by San Francisco. Considering the Niners are about to compete for a Super Bowl, I’d say the Vols did him a favor.
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