Which Past Ole Miss Football Players Had the Greatest NFL Careers?

Gene Hickerson - Cleveland Browns - File Photos
Gene Hickerson - Cleveland Browns - File Photos / Tim Culek/GettyImages
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Patrick Willis, Linebacker - 2007-14

Born in Tennessee, Patrick Willis played for Ole Miss from 2003-2006, picking up many accolades. The awards continued beyond his time in college when San Fransisco drafted him with the 11th overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft.

Patrick Willis wasted no time in making his mark in the NFL. In his first season with the 49ers, he was crowned the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, a testament to his exceptional talent. He led the league in combine tackles (174) and solo tackles (135), a feat he repeated in 2009. His selection for the Pro Bowl further underlined his dominance in his first seven seasons, five of them as First-team All-Pro.

In 2012, Willis was part of an elite defense that helped the 49ers make Super Bowl XLVII, going down to the Baltimore Ravens. The previous season, Willis and the defense set an NFL single-season record of not allowing a rushing touchdown until week 16. He also leads the franchise in Solo tackles with 733, just in front of safety Ronnie Lott.

Willis is a San Francisco 49ers Hall of Fame inductee. In 2024, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, his second year as a finalist. The past Ole Miss player has also been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Willis played through many injuries during his NFL career, retiring in 2015 after missing most of the 2014 season with a toe injury. It's a testament to his career that he could play through so many injuries and perform at the highest levels.