Originally posted on Eureka 49ers  |  Last updated 5/9/10
Ray Lewis,  Dick Butkus, Jack Lambert, Mike Singletary. Some of the best middle linebackers in NFL history, to add another among their ranks they must illustrate at least one of the qualities exuded by these players right? Most definitely, every linebacker that comes along and produces anywhere from good to very good shows signs of a Dick Butkus, shows signs of a Mike Singletary.
This may be the first time in league history that we’ve seen a player to combine all the features of these players. Singletary, Lewis, Butkus.. they all exude toughness, elite level play recognition, superb tackling ability and a body built for imposing their will on an opposing player. Willis has all of these things, he has them in spades. What of Lambert? He was the only one of the four mentioned that really had above average speed for a middle linebacker, and what he lacked in physical strength he made up for in spades with absolute toughness, intensity, and occasionally, dirty fighting.
Willis has speed. He has speed that is so rare among middle linebackers, speed that would embarrass a Jack Lambert in a footrace. He flies all over the field, with wreckless abandon, but always with a purpose.  Willis has strength, he has that intensity, he has the desire to make plays and he punishes himself mentally when he doesn’t.
In short, Willis exhibits all the qualities of a player who could very well go down as the greatest middle linebacker to play the game… and he’s only in his third season. As scary and ludicrous as it sounds, Willis still has room to grow. Coach Mike Singletary talks about it all the time, as perfect as Willis’ game is, he’s still making progress every day to get even better. What a thought.
All of this is why they recently made Patrick Willis the highest paid middle linebacker in NFL history. They extended him five years, giving him a contract worth around 50 million dollars with 29 million of that in guaranteed dollars. It’s a lot of money to be guaranteeing, but the team is sold on Willis as a player and, thanks to Mike Singletary, sold on him as a person. Singletary is convinced that the pay day won’t change Willis, that it won’t dull his play. Asked what he expects of Willis now that he has received 29 million in guaranteed dollars, he said "The same thing I've been getting. There's no one harder on Pat than himself."
If Pat is half as hard on himself as he is hard on opposing players... I feel for the guy.
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