Eric Reid broke into the NFL under the tutelage of legendary 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis. He spent his first two years in the league learning as a five-time First-Team All-Pro selection while the two were teammates in San Francisco.
During an interview with Matt Maiocco and Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Sports Bay Area on Super Bowl LVIII Radio Row, Reed revealed how a simple message from Willis ended up being the most important lesson he ever learned from the seven-time Pro Bowl selection.
“You have to do your job,” Red told Mayoko and Lee-chan. “You have to get it done. The team is counting on you to do your job. Don't make excuses, don't be the reason we don't stop; we need you to step up. I remember being a young player and him looking at me saying: 'Eh, you have to do it.' “We need you here, we need you now.”
“Whether it was a blitz or a choreographed play, you needed to do something. He's that leader that everyone wants. He makes the people around him better. They feed off of him.”
The 49ers selected Willis No. 11 overall in the 2007 NFL Draft. The Ole Miss product made an immediate impact in San Francisco, earning Defensive Rookie of the Year honors and First Team All-Pro honors during his first season in the league.
Willis would continue his career with the 49ers, earning six All-Pro selections during his eight-year NFL career before retiring several weeks after his 30th birthday in 2015.
In addition to the gaudy numbers he posted — Willis led the league in tackles in 2007 and 2009 — the dynamic linebacker proudly assumed the role of the backbone of a 49ers team that went from perpetual cellar dweller to bona fide contender during his tenure. Mission in San Francisco.
During Willis' heyday, the 49ers reached at least the NFC Championship Game in three straight seasons from 2011-13, including an appearance in Super Bowl XLVII. Willis earned First-Team All-Pro honors in each of those three seasons while also serving as the heart and soul of a defense that finished in the top five in points and yards allowed in each campaign during that span.
Despite Willis' decorated resume, the legendary 49ers linebacker has yet to receive enough votes to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame after being a finalist on two previous occasions.
That could all change Thursday night, as Willis once again becomes among 15 finalists for the Hall of Fame. Up to five players can be selected, and candidates must receive at least 80 percent of the votes to be inducted.
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