Monday, July 30, 2007

Willis Becomes Rich

(NFL) The San Francisco 49ers have signed middle linebacker Patrick Willis of Mississippi, the earlier of the team's two choices in the first round of the draft, to his first NFL contract. San Francisco last week signed Central Michigan offensive tackle Joe Staley, its other pick in the first round.
Willis, 22, was the 11th overall player selected in the draft. His contract is for five years, with a maximum value of $16.7 million and total guarantees of $12 million.
Regarded as the top linebacker prospect in this year's draft class, Willis figures to play quickly in the San Francisco 3-4 alignment, and to provide the 49ers a tough playmaker in the interior of the defense. A tackling machine, Willis twice led the SEC in total stops, but his quickness and range make him more than just a run-stuffer.
At the combine, Willis enhanced his already soaring stock by posting a 4.51-second time in the 40-yard dash. He also flashed his overall athleticism with an effort of 39 inches in the vertical jump, and solid times in change-of-direction drills.
Known for his innate football instincts, Willis was also a two-time academic all-conference selection. And his toughness was manifested in 2005 when he played the entire season with a cast on his right hand.
In 45 games at Ole Miss, including 22 starts, Willis had 355 tackles, 33 tackles for losses, 11 sacks, one interception, 12 passes defensed, five forced fumbles and three recoveries.