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A closer look: Patrick Willis

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Update [2007-3-7 9:54:36 by BleedGreen]: As an update to the story below, I spoke with a Ole Miss blogger, Uncle Tony from Down at Southern Tony's Halls and he had a few things to add about the tremendous character of Patrick Willis.

PW's younger brother, a high school senior, died in a drowning accident just a couple of days before media days last year. He went to the funeral (near Jackson, TN) and then drove down and did SEC media in Birmingham on just a couple hours rest, because he'd made a committment to Coach O and the league to do it. That says it all about the guy: He has enough character to do one of the hardest things you can do and then go do something because you said you would. He could've begged out, and nobody would have said boo to him, but he'd given his word and he kept it. He's the best representative this university has, and it stinks we only had him 4 years.

Paul Poz may be the local favorite to take at LB in the first round, but most scouts say that Ole Miss LB Patrick Willis is the better player. What I find most intriguing about Willis is that he plays on the inside, while Poz is an OLB. We already have some young guys that may develop into something on the outside, but with Trotter rapidly declining we have nothing up the middle.

I talked to some people from the Ole Miss fan site Rebel Faithful and got some very glowing reports of Mr Willis.

As far as Patrick Willis, one of the best young men you'd ever want to meet off the field. On the field, one of the most intense ballplayers I've seen in my 30+ years of watching Ole Miss football. Good speed and vision on the field and has a knack for finding the ball. A sure tackler, if he gets his hands on you, he's bringing you down. He may need a little work on his drops in pass defense, but he did have a couple of int's and several pass break-ups in his career.

He's a leader on and off the field and goes full speed when he hits the field. Both in practice and in games. He's definitely a fan favorite at Ole Miss and will be for a long time. He will not be replaced, someone will fill his position, but he's not the type of player you replace.

We all know that character is big for the Eagles and it's good to hear such glowing things about Willis as a person. He could very well impress the Eagles more in his combine interview than his workout...

One commenter had some further insight on his character.

A non football aside for you. My daughter who is a student at Ole Miss had a class with Patrick and got to know him and according to her (and she speaks the truth) he is also a dedicated student and a true Southern Gentleman. You should never get any TO type crap from him.

Another commenter feared for Eli Manning's(another Ole Miss alum) health should Willis be drafted by the Eagles.

I must say, I hope he doesn't go to the Eagles because he will be on the other side of the ball from another beloved Rebel when the Eagles play their division rivals, The Giants, twice a year. As a matter of fact, I hope Willis never comes around the corner unblocked when the team he is playing for is playing the Giants.

They also shared with me his highlight reel on YouTube. Now, I realized that these are just his highlights but there's some skills on display here that just can't be taught. First off, he hits like a ton of bricks, he seems to have little trouble shedding blocks, and most importantly the guy seems to have serious sideline to sideline speed for an ILB. That's something that was severely lacking with Trotter last year. A guy with this kind of speed playing in the middle would open up alot of options for Jim Johnson to do other things with his safeties and OLBs that he couldn't do last year.

Pay special attention to the 2nd highlight on here where he bodyslams an LSU RB that comes up the middle...

So... what are your thoughts on Patrick Willis? I must say, I love what I've seen from him. My fear is that he won't be around by #26. This may be a guy we need to jump a few teams to get.