COLUMN: Patrick Willis is living his dream of playing in the NFL for the San Francisco 49ers.
On his lone week off during the season, Willis is also trying to help others realize their dream and help underprivileged youth all at the same time.
The former Ole Miss Rebel spent two hours making phone calls and conducting interviews Tuesday to raise awareness as part of Duracell’s “Trust Your Power” program. Willis was brought in by the company during the offseason to share how he learned to “trust the power within” and live his dream of playing football, both at Ole Miss and now with the 49ers, coming out of his tiny hometown of Bruceton, Tenn.
Funds raised from the campaign go towards scholarships for youth camps for disadvantage kids, with Duracell donating $200,000 according to a release distributed by Willis’ spokesman.
In the attempt to garner support for his charity work, Willis planned to conduct 120 interviews in 120 minutes Tuesday. One of those calls came to me at 5:09 p.m. Willis’ spokesman was on the line initially, but soon the NFL’s best linebacker was talking, ready to fulfill a small portion of his mission.
Willis said he was doing well and loving his time playing for the 49ers and second-year coach Jim Harbaugh, who he said acts just like he does in the locker room behind close doors as he does on TV.
For those that don’t follow the NFL, Willis’ 49ers are now 6-2 after defeating the Arizona Cardinals 24-3 on Monday Night Football. Last year the 49ers and Willis won the NFC West title, the organization’s first since 2002, and he made his first playoff appearance since being drafted by the team in 2007.
A mainstay on D
Willis has been the 49ers’ mainstay on defense during the lean years and now with Harbaugh leading the way, Willis’ talents are being utilized even more than before, both on the field and in advertising or public relation campaigns.
One of the things Willis wanted to get accomplished during his various phone interviews was to get caught up on the Rebels. Willis didn’t get to see the win over Arkansas, but he knew about it and added he thought first-year head coach Hugh Freeze was doing a great job.
“He was there first when I was there. He’s going to do great things. He needs a little more time to get in some players, but I think he’s done a great job so far,” said Willis, who was planning to watch Saturday’s game with No. 6 Georgia.
Praising Freeze was important, but Willis really wanted to make sure that all the Ole Miss fans here locally knew how much he appreciated them, both now and in the past.
“Tell them all again I thank them for all the support and that I loved my time in Oxford and Ole Miss,” Willis said.
With that, Willis was saying goodbye and off to the next person on his list. Two minutes was too quick to really get a great feel of how Willis, also known as “P-Willie,” is really doing, but his voice sounded the same, warm and respectful, and his tone was very upbeat like he was sincere about everything he was talking about.
As big as Eli Manning is a representative for the Rebels in the NFL, so is Willis, who continues to impress through programs and events like Tuesday. (October 31, 2012, Page 7)