Being voted to seven consecutive Pro Bowls to start his NFL career affords 49ers linebacker Joe Staley certain privileges. That is to say, when Willis talks, his teammates listen.
Ever since the departure of linebacker Takeo Spikes in 2010, Willis has assumed the role at the center of San Franciso's pregame huddle. Each week, the 49ers team captain is tasked with inspiring his teammates prior to kickoff.
"Honestly, I can't remember how I became the one to speak in front of the guys pregame," the All-Pro middle linebacker told 49ers.com. "It's just one of those things that started happening and we stayed with it. I'm very fortunate to be able to be the guy to get up there."
That doesn't mean Willis is the only one who speaks. If a teammate wants to come forward, Willis makes sure everyone's voice is heard.
"Any guy who has anything to say pregame, they're more than welcome to say it pregame," Willis said. "There's been times where I bequeath it to another guy."
No matter who speaks, Willis makes sure the message gets across, contemplating what he'll say throughout the week.
"I really don't know exactly what I'm going to say before I get up there," Willis said. "It's more so something I feel as pregame goes on. I may be thinking one thing on the way to the game. Then, as we get out there and I start feeling it, I just try to do a good job, saying what's on my heart and letting the guys know what I'm feeling. It's not so much about downing the other team, but talking to our guys and letting them know what we have to do."
Willis has seen the pregame speech videos produced by 49ers Studios and admitted that he will enjoy re-watching them at the end of his NFL career.
"Hopefully, it's something I look back on years from know and be proud of the things I said," Willis admitted. "Hopefully, those guys hear it, they feel it and use it in some type of way."