Niners LB Willis has relationship with Lewis from prior Pro Bowls

January 28, 2013 | WNST Staff


(on what he has planned for this game Sunday) “Go out there and play the best football I can and hopefully come out with a win.”

(on how it feels taking the 49ers back to a Super Bowl) “The 49ers had a tradition for a while where they were winning Super Bowls and contenders all the time. They kind of went through a dry spell, so it feels good to be back. It feels good to be a part of what’s going on right now considering the first four years were pretty bad.”

(on being described by head coach Jim Harbaugh as getting the job done kind of guy and not taking credit type of guy) “I’ve always kind of been this way. I’ve always had high expectations for myself. Any time I’m able to make a play or do something that most (people) don’t think I could do or can do. For me, in my mind, I’ve already seen it or felt like I could do it. So I don’t get overly excited about anything because in my mind I’m just doing my job.”

(on how you are going to stop Joe Flacco) “(Joe) Flacco’s a good quarterback. He’s really becoming a quarterback of his own. He has a strong arm and there is no question about how far he can throw the ball and the strength of his arm. He can move a little bit. For us, we are going to have to play team football. Our coverages are going to have to be great and guys are going to have to get after him when they’re rushing.”

(on what his first impression of NaVorro Bowman) “Just to see what he’s been able to do going into his second year, his first year starting, his preparation and seeing how hard he works. There is no surprise seeing him having the kind of success he is having now.”

(on when he knew NaVorro Bowman was as good as he is) “I am not one of those guys who try to say, ‘I always knew this or I saw it then.’ It was just one of those things where I respect and earn – to be able to be given a name, to be able to be considered a good football player, you have to consistently do it on a day-to-day basis and that’s how I went about it with him. I just watched him prepare. I watched him day in and day out. That’s how things unveiled over time, just seeing him consistently do it. That’s where respect, for me, comes in.”

(on people not noticing him) “I’ve always been a firm believer that you go out there and play football and play good football and the rest will take care of itself. As far as Ray Lewis, I will forever and always have respect for what he has done for this game. The way he has played it and the passion he has played it (with). But at the same time, the time is now. I want it bad. We want it bad. That’s just the way it is. We are going to go out there and play.”

(on whether it’s a coincidence he wears #52) “It’s a coincidence in the sense that when I got drafted they had a few numbers, 51, 52, 57 and I’m an even number type guy, so I said to myself, ’52 sounds the best out of all of these numbers and I’m a fan of a guy who wears No. 52 and that will be a number to play up to. That will be a number to be able to wear on your back because a great one is wearing it right now.’ So that was kind of my sense that I took.”

(on whether he has a relationship with Ray Lewis) “(The relationship) kind of started through Pro Bowl times. I’ve always been a fan of his and then when I got drafted, being coached by Coach (Mike) Singletary. I think I played him my first year in Baltimore. I got a chance to shake his hand then, but really got a chance to get to know him a little bit when we were at the Pro Bowl. We sat down outside by the pool, where all the guys hang out, and we just talked. I recall his wise words. He passed some of his wisdom over to me. I’m the type of person, I’m a big fan of those who have been there and done that. Or guys who have done it at a high level consistently. I’ve always had respect for him.”

(on how this week is structured) “We still are going to have the same body of work that we would have if we were back home – same kind of work that we had when we were in Youngstown. The only difference now is that we have to do a whole lot of media, and this is not Youngstown.”

(on whether he calls Ray Lewis Mufasa) “Yes, that is what I call him anytime I shoot him a text or meet him. I call him Mufasa. That’s from the movie the Lion King. By no stretch of the means am I calling him a King. I’m just calling him a King in this game and what it’s about and what he’s been able to do at the linebacker position. He holds that. He holds that crown for the way to play the middle linebacker position and the way it’s been played for a long time. That’s why I call him Mufasa.”

(on his game compared to Ray Lewis’) “I’ve never been a man of comparing because I don’t like when people compare me because we are all our own person. We all have something different. We all have something that makes us who we are. As far as comparing, he plays the game with a lot of passion and enthusiasm. I play with the same kind of passion and enthusiasm. I may not get up and go as crazy as he does at times, but inside when a play is made or something is going good, I burn. I burn inside with that same kind of feeling. I just don’t show it as much.”

(on whether he felt the 49ers were close to a championship before Jim Harbaugh arrived) “Yes. That’s what’s funny because people ask all the time what was the difference. What did he do? Honestly, there were times in those first four years being there that there was no question in my mind that this is the year. We’re going to make a run. I always thought that if we can just get in the playoffs, we have a team that can make the run, but we just couldn’t get over that hump. So he came in, him being the coach of the year, him putting together the coaching staff that he put together. He already had players there that wanted to win, players there who wanted to work. Players there who wanted to go out and sacrifice to do whatever it took to win. With the additional add-ons to some of the guys he brought in and drafted , the coaches and players together were able to find a way.”

(on whether he thinks Harbaugh made the difference) “There is no question in my mind that he is a big part of why we are what we are today, but I think it takes all of us all collectively as a unit and a group, from players to coaches, to management. It took us all together to get us where we are today. It wasn’t just one player or one coach. It was all of us together.”

(on whether there was a moment he could see a turning point)

“The turning point for me in understanding what we have – anyone can pat you on the back, laugh with you, cut up with you when things are going good. It’s when you go through those hard times, when you’re in the heat of battle and things aren’t going so well that you really find out a true man’s character. Last year we were playing against the Eagles and the Eagles jumped out on us big time. We went into the locker room down 17 points. I’ve been part of a locker room whether it’s players or coaches where guys are pointing the finger at one another. Guys are mad and saying this and that. For some reason, that locker room, the coaches and the players came in and we were all like, ‘We’ve got ourselves in this. We have to get ourselves out.’ Coach Harbaugh was like, ‘They said it wasn’t going to be easy, but we don’t like easy. We got ourselves down we have to fight out of it.’ Our defensive coordinator, Coach (Vic) Fangio came in. He had every reason to go crazy on us. He said, ‘Guys you know what we got to do. Just calm down. Settle down and let’s go play.’ I just remember sitting back and watching him and being like, ‘Wow.’  Whether we lost that game or won that game, to me, just to have that was amazing. Fortunately, we were able to go out there and win that game. Which put in more perspective the kind of leadership we have within our head coach and other coaches.”

(on what changed in the second half against the Eagles in 2011) “We just came out and calmed down, but the biggest thing was having our coaches believe in us the way they did. And having the players believe in one another the way we did. That’s the key. I feel like if we came in there at halftime and everybody would have been yelling at one another and coaches yelling and cutting up; I don’t think we would have gone out there with that kind of mindset. Let’s just calm down and focus. We all believe in one another so let’s go do it as opposed to going out there mentally mad at him.”

(on what Randy Moss has brought to the team) “I still remember playing video games, just so you could get him and throw it deep. I don’t know if it was a clinch in the game. I used to think it was a clinch in the game, but to see him in person. To see him run the way that he does. I got the older version of him coming here, but he can still light it up. He can get down the field. That’s just what I see as a person. I can only imagine what he used to run. He has brought so much to our team. He brought leadership. He’s brought wisdom. He just brought the charisma that he has within himself. He comes to work every day. He has a sense of humor. When it’s time to work he works, but at the same time you can go and talk to him. You can go and ask him a question and see what’s on his mind. Some stories you’ve heard before where a guy is so high up you don’t think you can go talk to him because you think you might ask him a crazy question or he won’t have the time. But Randy has all the time in the world for his teammates. If this is his last season, I want to make sure he goes out with a bang.”

(on his scholarship offers) “I didn’t get any big time scholarship offers. Ole Miss (University of Mississippi) was the best one out of all of the schools. The other SEC schools didn’t offer me a scholarship.”

(on whether he wanted to go to Tennessee) “Yes I did. I was a Vols fan growing up. That was like America’s Team. I wanted to go there so bad. After every 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. 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. The coaches never shook my hand. They never talked to me. One day I just got tired of doing that. My senior year, I remember going up and saying, ‘Coach I see all of the other guys getting love. I really want to come here. I’m interested in coming here. Do you have something for me? Maybe a scholarship offer? Maybe something just saying you want me?’ But I didn’t get that. I got, ‘Well you’re having a hard time. We’re recruiting two other linebackers, Ernie Sims and Daniel Brooks. Those are the two guys we want and we don’t know if you’re going to make the ACT score.’ I never forget looking at him and being like he basically said we’re not really interested, we don’t want you. 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. I’m sorry that I didn’t go to a 5A school. I’m sorry that I wasn’t in a town that could be recognized, but we are what we are. We are in the situation that we’re in. The good Lord had a plan for me. I ended up going to Ole Miss. Ole Miss, Coach…. and those guys, I thank them. They gave me a scholarship and I ended up going there and had the best four years that a football player could have. Well, we didn’t win that much, one time, and that’s when Eli (Manning) was there my freshman year, but I went there and had a blast and had a great time playing football there. Here I am all these years later. The Lord had a plan for me.”