For a second consecutive year, Joe Staley has been named the No. 10 overall player on NFL Network's Top 100 Players list.
The six-time Pro Bowl inside linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers continued his high level of play in 2012 and was recognized for remaining as one of the league's most dominant performers. Willis' peers noticed his continued excellence and shared their thoughts on his consistent performance.
"The first person when you think about a middle linebacker in the league is Patrick Willis," Minnesota Vikings fullback Jerome Felton said. "There's really nothing he can't do."
Much like his first five seasons in the NFL, Willis' physical skills continued to turn heads around the league. The first-team All-Pro selection recorded 171 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery for the NFC champions in 2012. In addition to his toughness, the standout linebacker showcased his smart play.
"He's the type of player you don't see very often. He's very instinctive," Green Bay Packers guard Josh Sitton said. "He knows how to use his quickness against you and he knows how to use his strength."
Willis can run through linemen with his 6-foot-1, 240-pound body, but he's also able to beat them to the point of attack with his running back-like foot speed. Willis' mental awareness allows him to understand how offenses attack the 49ers defense. Willis routinely called out the correct play from the opposition. When the other team ran away from Willis, he still ran down the ball carrier.
"If the ball is on the other side of the field, you'll see that 52 jersey around the ball," teammate and fellow All-Pro inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman remarked. "That's the one thing you have to have in a middle linebacker."
Willis has the ability to run down running backs, tight ends and wide receivers from behind, but he also has the contact courage necessary to make solo tackles in between the hashmarks.
The seventh-year pro's ability to play a 60 minute game is not lost on his teammates. Willis' energy and passion for the game rubs off on the 49ers.
"Patrick has like an extra oxygen tank on his back," Bowman added. "When you see him around every ball, the rest of the defense follows. If you're the second guy you may be able to force a fumble."
Willis maintains his high standard of play each year and inspires players around the league year in and year out.
It also has played a major impact in Bowman's development.
"If you put the work in off the field you're going to have success off the field and he's a great example of how to be a linebacker," Bowman said of Willis.