Ole Miss’ Patrick Willis elected to College Football Hall of Fame
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Former Ole Miss All-America linebacker Patrick Willis has been elected to the 2019 College Football Hall of Fame Class as announced Monday by the National Football Foundation.
Willis becomes the 10th former player or coach to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as an Ole Miss Rebel. Two other members of the Ole Miss family have also been enshrined in the hall.
Willis, along with the 14 other Hall of Fame selections, will be officially inducted on Dec. 10, 2019, at the annual NFF awards dinner at the Hilton Midtown Hotel in New York City.
“No one has ever been more deserving of such an honor as Patrick Willis,” said Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke, who served on the Rebel staff during Willis’ collegiate career. “We are so proud to see Patrick continue our rich Hall of Fame tradition. He persevered through so much to excel at both the college and professional level, and he belongs among the best to ever play the game.”
“On behalf of the Ole Miss family, we are honored to be represented by Patrick on this prestigious platform,” said Ross Bjork, Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics. “With the countless hardships he overcame, Patrick represents the type of student-athlete we work hard every day to support. Congratulations to Patrick as well as our 11 previous Hall of Fame inductees.”
Willis, a four-year letterwinner for the Rebels from 2003 to 2006, is one of the most decorated defensive players in Ole Miss football history. As a senior, he was a consensus All-American in 2006 when he won the Butkus Award and Lambert Trophy as the nation’s best linebacker.
He twice led the Southeastern Conference in tackles and was selected to the most first team All-American squads (13) ever by a Rebel player in a single season. A first team All-American in 2005 and 2006, he was also a two-time SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
The senior team captain ranks sixth all-time at Ole Miss with 355 career tackles, and he is tied for fifth with 33 career tackles for loss. Willis was the recipient of the 2006 Conerly Trophy as the best college football player in the state of Mississippi and the Ole Miss Chucky Mullins Courage Award. The Bruceton, Tennessee, native ended his collegiate career as the Defensive MVP for the South Team in the 2007 Senior Bowl.
Willis matched his on-field success in the classroom, earning Academic All-SEC honors and receiving the 2007 Wilma Rudolph Student-Athlete Achievement Award. A 2015 inductee into the Ole Miss Sports Hall of Fame, he was selected to SI.com’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s.
The 11th overall selection of the 2007 NFL draft, Willis won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year during his debut season with the San Francisco 49ers. Willis went on to enjoy an eight-year NFL career in which he made seven Pro Bowls and was voted All-Pro five times.
One of the best defensive players of his era, Willis finished his NFL career with 950 combined tackles (732 solo, 218 assists), 20.5 sacks, 16 forced fumbles, five fumbles recovered, eight interceptions and two defensive touchdowns.
The other members of this year’s Hall of Fame Class are: Terrell Buckley (DB, Florida State, 1989-91), Rickey Dixon (DB, Oklahoma, 1984-87), London Fletcher (LB, John Carroll, 1995-97), Jacob Grey, DL, Texas A&M, 1977-79), Raghib Ismail (Notre Dame, KR/WR, 1988-90), Darren McFadden (RB, Arkansas, 2005-07), Jake Plummer (QB, Arizona St., 1993-96), Joe Thomas (OL, Wisconsin, 2003-06), Lorenzo White (RB, Michigan St., 1984-87), Patrick Willis (LB, Ole Miss, 2003-06), Vince Young (QB, Texas, 2003-05) and coaches Dennis Erickson and Joe Taylor.
The 2019 Hall of Fame Class was selected from the national ballot of 76 All-America players and six elite coaches from the Football Bowl Subdivision and the 100 players and 32 coaches from the divisional ranks.
The announcement of the 2019 Class was made today live on ESPN’s SportsCenter in Santa Clara, California, the site of the College Football Playoff National Championship. Willis will also be one of the Hall of Fame inductees participating in the coin toss on the field during the championship game.
The inductees will also be recognized at their respective collegiate institutions with NFF Hall of Fame On-Campus Salutes, presented by Fidelity Investments, during the fall. Their accomplishments will be forever immortalized at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
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Ole Miss in the College Football Hall of Fame
• Bruiser Kinard (1951)
• Charlie Conerly (1965)
• Barney Poole (1974)
• John Vaught (1979)
• Doug Kenna* (1984)
• Thad “Pie” Vann** (1987)
• Archie Manning (1989)
• Parker Hall (1991)
• Jake Gibbs (1995)
• Charlie Flowers (1997)
• Wesley Walls (2014)
• Patrick Willis (2019)
* Kenna was inducted as an Army player; was on the 1941 Ole Miss freshman team with fellow hall of famers Conerly and Poole
** Vann was inducted as a Southern Miss coach; played at Ole Miss from 1926-28 and was captain of the ’28 squad