Willis says wearing 52 has nothing to do with Ray Lewis

January 29, 2013 | WNST Staff



(on the linebackers from the 49ers and the Ravens) “This is going to be a defensive battle. Our linebacker corps, I feel like we have the best linebacker corps in the NFL. I really do. Our guys come out every week, week-in and week-out, and we play for each other. Baltimore has those same kind of guys with (Terrell) Suggs and Ray (Lewis) and (Dannell) Ellerbe. It’s going to be, for sure, a defensive battle.”


(on wearing Ray Lewis’ number) “This is a 49ers jersey, and this is my number. I’ve always answered that question anytime I’m asked I have all the respect in the world for Ray. When I chose this number it was more so the best number they had at the time. When I was drafted, they asked me if I wanted 51 and 57 and 59 or 52. I didn’t want any of those other numbers, and 52 was the best number I felt. I’m an even number guy. I’ve always been an even number guy, and then I said to myself, ‘Why don’t I get the number 52? I know a guy right now who wears that number who is one of the best. It will be a great number to play up to.’ That’s kind of how it came about.”


(on playing in the Super Bowl) “As a kid, you grew up watching. Just to have the opportunity to be able to play in this game given (that) my first four years, we were at home at this time watching other teams play. Last year we were one game away. To be able to be here, is truly special.”


(on the role his faith has played in his career) “My grandmother kind of got me into church. She was a lady that every Sunday you’re going to go to church. Every Wednesday you’re going to go to church, every bible study, every day. The thing I’ll never forget is when I got ready to go away to college, I’ll never forget telling my grandmother, ‘OK, I’m getting ready to go to college.’ I was the first person in my family to go to college, to stay and graduate. I’ll never forget something I’ll always take with me. She said, ‘Baby, no matter what you do, always keep your hand in God’s hand. My grandmother is someone that was like a mother to me that raised me. I love her. She is still alive and still strong. She still talks to me all the time and says, ‘Keep your hand in God’s hand. Just keep on believing in God.’ That’s something I don’t push on anybody because we all have our own beliefs, but I believe and I have faith that he is why I am where I am today.”


(on Jim Harbaugh placing emphasis on the team over  individual players) “It made a lot of sense, when you find someone that talks a lot about himself a lot, it just kind of throws you off. Is he stuck on himself? Is he conceited? Is he this or is he that? One thing Coach Harbaugh brought to us is, he said, ‘Instead of talking about yourself, talk about the man next to you. Talk about the man beside you.’ He said when you talk about yourself, you believe in yourself, but when you talk about others, he said, ‘A tide will rise all ships.’ He also said, ‘Loose lips sink ships.’ It’s about building up one another. It’s about talking about the next guy, letting other know that it’s not just about me. It’s about these other guys around me. That’s what our team is about. We all understand that we would not be here at this point if we did not all buy in. Not just one person guides you.”


(on how placing an emphasis on talking about the team changed the chemistry of the team) “It went from being about me, about I, to really just making it about us and one another. Anytime you can have a bunch of guys that are like that, I think you’ll have a great team. I really feel like that’s what makes our team what it is. We have a bunch of unselfish guys across the whole board. I remember we didn’t always have that. Now I can honestly say across the board we do have that.”


(on growing up in Tennessee and being overlooked in high school) “Growing up in Tennessee and playing I-A ball, they tend to kind of downplay and tell you, ‘Oh he’s not that good. His level of competition is not that high.’ You can’t help the situation that you’re given. You can’t help the circumstances that you’re brought up in, but you can do something about it. I was someone that I wasn’t going to be told otherwise. I wasn’t going to be told that your level of competition is not that high or that you’re not that good of a player. I went out there every day and I worked to be the tough football player that I am today from middle school to high school to college. I’ve always been fueled by someone telling me I can’t do something or I’m too small or I’m too big. I just tuck it and use it as fuel.”


(on losing his brother) “I lost my little brother, Detris Willis. He was 17. I was going into my senior year of college. I’ll never forget getting that phone call and just hearing about it. I will never forget just dedicating my senior year to him. I said, ‘I’m going to play for us both – for me and for him.’ Honestly, I really felt that he was going to be a better senior player than I was, that he was going to be a better college player than I was. He had all the better attributes that it took to be an amazing football player, but God had different plans for him. He’s watching on me today. I feel like everything happens for a reason. Back then, I didn’t know why. Sometimes if you try to figure out things and try to make sense of things, and ask why do things happen for a reason, you can drive yourself crazy. But here we are six or seven years later and getting to play in the Super Bowl. There is no doubt that he has been a big part of that. There’s no doubt that the Lord let him be my angel.”


(on his faith) “It’s just believing and believing in the purpose. I’ll never forget when I was coming out and getting ready for the combine. I had no idea who was really interested. You had different teams that would fly you there on all different visits, but I had no idea. I never forget praying. I never forget being told, ‘You had all these linebackers ahead of you.’ I had so many other guys ahead of me, and I’ll never forget getting on my knees – true story. I’ll never forget getting on my knees and saying, ‘Lord, I don’t know where you’re going to bless me to go. I don’t know who it’s going to be. I just want to go somewhere where it’s warm. I want to go somewhere where I can walk out on my balcony and take my shirt off. I want to go somewhere where I can drive my cars every day and not worry about it raining or snowing, and most importantly, I want to go somewhere where I can make it my home. I want to play the best football I can play.’ It’s a true story. That was my prayer on draft day. The Lord blessed me to go to the 49ers, and I still say today – I grew up a Cowboys fan and I couldn’t stand the 49ers for nothing – just when I prayed that prayer, and for them to call me unexpectedly, I was coached by them in the Senior Bowl, but I didn’t go and visit. But for them to call me and for me to go out there where the weather is nice, and I can walk out on my balcony, I can drive my car, and most importantly, I was able to make it my home. I knew it was him. It was all his will. That’s how I am.”


(on honoring God when he plays) “I used to get mad. I used to get mad when things didn’t go the way I wanted them to on the field. In my mind, I was thinking, ‘I’m going to get an interception today, or I’m going to get three sacks or I’m going to get this many tackles today.’ When I wouldn’t get that I’d say, ‘Man, what’s going on?’ Sometimes you can lose yourself in your faith if things don’t go the way you want. It’s easy when things are going good, but when things go bad, you get mad and you’re like, ‘What’s going on?’ With him, I’ve learned. Every game, I pray about 10 prayers a game. What I always end it with is I say, ‘Lord, let your will be done today.’ Whatever happens out there on field and at the end of the day, I know in my heart I’ve given my all. So, therefore, I’m able to go home. Don’t get me wrong now, I’m still up. I still don’t sleep like I want to, but I don’t let it get me like it used to because like I said, I pray and his will will be done.”


(on Aldon Smith) “Aldon is a heck of an athlete. He’s a guy that just gets it, and then he comes to work every day. He gives me feedback when I’m going against a back or a rush or whatnot. He says, ‘Pat, you have to use your hands.’ He gives me advice, and I trust him no matter if he’s two years in and I’m six years in. When a guy of his caliber can rush the way he can rush, he can give me advice all day and I’ll listen. We’re very grateful to have Aldon on our team. He’s going to be a player that’s going to be recognized.”


(on defensive coordinator Vic Fangio) “Coach Vic, he’s a great guy. I’ll never forget the first time I met him. He got hired, and he texted me and said, ‘If you’re in town, I want you to come by the office.’ I’ll never forget coming by the office and for the first time I didn’t imagine him looking like an Italian guy. I just remember shaking his hand when I left after talking to him. He just told me some things that he was expecting a little bit. Coach Vic, he’s as super quiet guy but he’s very smart. He’s a guy that he won’t toot his own horn. He won’t, but he is unbelievably smart. I can honestly say that he is a guy that when he puts that game plan in front of us, there is no doubt that he didn’t go through it and thought about every single thing that he’s put down. He’s thinking. Another thing I love most about him is he doesn’t – every now and then he gets heated – but for the most part he doesn’t. He trusts us out there on the field. He trusts in his players. Sometimes you might not have a good series of tackles, but he’s always going to stand behind you. He’s constantly always showing us that believes in us. He’s the kind of guy you want.”