San Francisco 49ers

Patrick Willis says his feet carried him away from the game

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis wipes his eye as he speaks at a news conference at the team's NFL football facility in Santa Clara, Tuesday, March 10, 2015. Willis, a seven-time Pro Bowler, will retire after his 2014 season was cut short by a toe injury that required surgery.
San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis wipes his eye as he speaks at a news conference at the team's NFL football facility in Santa Clara, Tuesday, March 10, 2015. Willis, a seven-time Pro Bowler, will retire after his 2014 season was cut short by a toe injury that required surgery. AP

Patrick Willis’ feet are what made him an NFL superstar, and they’re also what drove him from the game, the 49ers linebacker said today at his retirement press conference.

“These feet -- oh boy, oh boy, oh boy -- I make no excuses, but they have worked and they have worked and they have worked,” he said.

Willis, 30, missed 10 1/2 games of the 2014 season after having surgery on the big toe on his left foot. But he said today that issues involving his feet date back to his days at Ole Miss.

Willis broke bones in his hand several times between college and his career with the 49ers. But while he was able to play through those injuries -- he missed only one game due to a broken bone -- he said trouble with his feet would prevent him from playing at the level he’s used to.

Willis noted that in 2010 he broke a bone in his hand on a Sunday, had surgery on Monday and played in a game on Thursday. But he said it was almost as if his feet were speaking to him, guiding him to his decision. “There’s something about these feet -- that’s what made me who I am,” he said.

Willis wiped away tears before he stepped to the lectern. But he was loose and talkative -- at times funny-- and overall very content and confident in his decision to step away.

“I don’t know if I feel happier today than the day I came in,” Willis said.

He didn’t go into detail about what he’d do in the future. Others have said he wants to work with children in his native Tennessee. Willis on Tuesday said the beauty of his decision is that he can do whatever he wants and won’t be hobbled due to too many years playing in the NFL.

“If I want to go fishing tomorrow, I can go fishing tomorrow,” he said.

Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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