Patrick Willis named finalist for 2023 Pro Football HOF class

In his fourth year on the ballot, former 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis is one of 15 Modern-Era finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2023. This is his second time landing among the group of finalists.

Willis spent his entire eight-year career with San Francisco, and while he doesn’t have the longevity of some Hall of Famers, his impact during his time in the NFL was still profound.

In eight years, Willis was a seven-time Pro Bowler, a five-time First-Team All-Pro and once a Second-Team All-Pro. He was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-Decade team for the 2010s, and was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2007.

His dominance at middle linebacker for the 49ers included six seasons with more than 100 tackles and two seasons as the NFL’s leading tackler. He also posted 20.5 sacks, 60 tackles for loss, eight interceptions, 53 pass breakups and 16 forced fumbles.

Willis stood at the heart of a 49ers defense that helped define the NFL in the early 2010s, and his skill set ushered in a new style of linebacker that could run with wide receivers in coverage while still getting downhill to meet running backs at the line of scrimmage. It only took eight seasons for Willis to become synonymous with the NFL’s all-time great linebackers.

The legendary 49ers LB won’t have an easy trip to Canton though. He’s joined by DE Jared Allen, OT Willie Anderson, DB Ronde Barber, DE Dwight Freeney, KR Devin Hester, WR Tory Holt, WR Andre Johnson, CB Albert Lewis, CB Darrelle Revis, OT Joe Thomas, LB Zach Thomas, DE DeMarcus Ware, WR Reggie Wayne and DB Darren Woodson.

The 2023 class will be comprised of up to five of the modern-era finalists, and will be announced Feb. 9 at the NFL Honors ceremony.

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Story originally appeared on Niners Wire