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NASHVILLE — Bruceton native and former Ole Miss and San Francisco 49ers star Patrick Willis was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame along with a star-studded class Saturday night, …
NASHVILLE — Bruceton native and former Ole Miss and San Francisco 49ers star Patrick Willis was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame along with a star-studded class Saturday night, June 15.
Willis’ journey began as an outstanding football player for the Bruceton Tigers from 1999-2002 where he became the first player in Tennessee history to be nominated for both Mr. Football Awards for lineman and back in the same season and was named All-State at Linebacker. He earned a scholarship to Ole Miss where he was coached by fellow Hall of Fame inductee David Cutcliffe. Willis became an All-SEC performer and two-time SEC Conference Defensive Player of the Year. He was a first-team All-American in 2005 and 2006 while winning the Butkus and Lambert Awards in 2007 that go to the top linebacker in the country. Willis was also named South Team Defensive MVP at the 2007 Senior Bowl.
Willis was drafted 11th in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft by San Francisco where he played for eight seasons before retiring in 2015. He was the AP’s NFL Rookie of the Year leading the league in tackles in his first season.
Besides Willis and Cutcliffe, now the head football coach at Duke, the class includes former Tennessee Vol quarterback and two-time Super Bowl champion Peyton Manning, George Taliaferro, a Tennessee native who became the first African-American drafted by an NFL team. Taliaferro will be honored posthumously along with former major league baseball catcher Bob Tillman.
Other inductees include Kippy Brown, former Tennessee offensive coordinator and longtime NFL assistant coach, former Tennessee safety and current FOX football analyst Charles Davis, former Lady Vol basketball star and current ESPN broadcaster Kara Lawson, and former Sewanee basketball player, Kimberly Anne Valek.
Willis has also been elected to the College Football Hall of Fame and will be inducted December 10 at the annual National Football Foundation Awards dinner in New York.