Patrick Willis tried to Volunteer, was turned away in tears

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis (52) celebrates

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis (52) celebrates after sacking Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers during the third quarter of an NFC divisional playoff game. (Jan. 12, 2013) (Credit: AP)

Patrick Willis spoke on Sunday night about his desire to play at the University of Tennessee -- where Peyton Manning played -- before winding up at Ole Miss -- where Eli Manning played.

See, in New Orleans, everything comes back to the Mannings!

Anyway, here's Willis:

"I was a Vols fan growing up," he said of his childhood in Brewston, TN. "That was like America’s Team. I wanted to go there so bad. After every game my dad and I would get in the car and drive five hours to go to Knoxville to watch them play on an unofficial visit. This was on our gas money and our time. I just wanted to show them how bad I wanted to be there. I can’t forget being there and you have all these other big-time recruits there and they are shaking their hands and the coaches are talking to them. The coaches never shook my hand. They never talked to me.

"One day I just got tired of doing that. My senior year, I remember going up and saying, ‘Coach I see all of the other guys getting love. I really want to come here. I’m interested in coming here. Do you have something for me? Maybe a scholarship offer? Maybe something just saying you want me?’ But I didn’t get that. I got, ‘Well you’re having a hard time. We’re recruiting two other linebackers, Ernie Sims and Daniel Brooks. Those are the two guys we want and we don’t know if you’re going to make the ACT score.’

"I never forget looking at him and being like he basically said we’re not really interested, we don’t want you. I’ll never forget getting in the car with my foster dad and we’re riding home and I cried. I cried, not because I was sad, but more so because I knew how badly I wanted to be a Tennessee Vol. I knew what type of player I could be.

"I’m sorry that I didn’t go to a 5A school. I’m sorry that I wasn’t in a town that could be recognized, but we are what we are. We are in the situation that we’re in.

"The good Lord had a plan for me. I ended up going to Ole Miss. Ole Miss... They gave me a scholarship and I ended up going there and had the best four years that a football player could have. Well, we didn’t win that much, just one time, and that’s when Eli (Manning) was there my freshman year, but I went there and had a blast and had a great time playing football there. Here I am all these years later. The Lord had a plan for me.”

advertisement | advertise on newsday

NFL video

advertisement | advertise on newsday