Last week ESPN profiled San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis on their documentary style program E: 60. While many of the programs on ESPN cover current events or breaking news, E: 60 focuses on the on the much more dramatic human element side of sports. Detailing player accomplishments and life changing events off the field rather than on it. With superb interviews and story telling, the program pulls back the screen to allow the viewer to experience the trials and tribulations of so many of our beloved sports icons. The Patrick Willis story is no exception, E: 60 beautifully paints a picture of struggle and success, suffering and glory, a story of rising up from the tyrannically meek to the joyful release of achievement. Not in sports but in life.
Patrick Willis grew up in Bruceton Tennessee, in a run down trailer down a dirt road. His family crippled by poverty lived a very powerful and strict life, taking nothing for granted along the way. So poverty stricken, that the Willis household was not blessed with running water until Patrick reached the age of eight. Eventually the struggles became too much for his mother to overcome and she left the family when Willis was only four. Her departure left Willis and her three other children with an abusive and addicted father.
Though his struggles at home were monumental, Willis dedicated himself at a very young age to overcoming his burdens. At age ten he began working full time during the summer months in the cotton fields to pay the household bills, feed himself and his siblings, purchase clothes, and to purchase needed school items. In essence, he basically raised himself and his siblings. He was such a father figure at a young age that his own father came to him for money. Though he did become aware that the money given to his father was only fueling his addictions.
Willis eventually turned to sports to vent his frustrations and quell his inner anguish. He excelled at a number of sports including football, basketball, and baseball. In football he earned the "Mr. Football" award for the state of Tennessee on both offense and defense, a feat that no one had ever accomplished before. He was excelling at such a high level; the dream of success in sports was actually something that was attainable.
Unfortunately, it was a sport that almost ruined the dream and tore a family apart. Before his senior year of high school he was playing basketball with two of his siblings and his father, when his father, angry for losing, started beating his own daughter. He allegedly punched her numerous times for laughing at being beat by her much bigger brother Patrick. Willis physically stopped his father from continuing to beat on his sister. To which his father threatened Willis with death if he ever attempted to interfere again with his disciplinary tactics.
It was then that the decision was made by Willis and his siblings to contact the authorities with the intention of legally removing them from the household. So after years upon years of abuse at the hands of their father, the authorities informed the father that the children would in fact be moved to foster homes. Unfortunately, that also meant that Willis and his siblings would be separated for the remainder of their upbringing. It was not something Willis and his siblings had planned for.
The outlook was bleak for the siblings, until that is; one good-natured family threw their hat in the ring to help in any way they could. Upon hearing the news of the Willis family events, Chris and Julie Finley decided to open their doors and hearts to all of the Willis children. The kindness and generosity of the Finley family allowed Willis to continue to pursue his dreams without the added weight of his concern for his brothers and sister. From that point on it looked as if the road was paved in gold for Willis. He graduated high school and enrolled at the University of Mississippi, where he was a standout in the football program.
Unfortunately, tragedy once again struck Willis and his family. During his junior year in college his younger brother drowned in a swimming accident. It was a blow that many thought could derail the consummate provider. To compound the grief, his mother had attended the funeral and attempted to rekindle her relationship with Willis. It seemed like no matter how well he did or how inspiring his future looked, tragedy always seemed to follow him.
Through it all Willis remains head strong and positive. Impressing everyone he comes in contact with, with his character and morality. Former head coach Mike Singletary eloquently commented on how Willis takes on life’s challenges.
"When you have a tough childhood, it makes all the tough things seem normal. I’ve been through this, I can handle the rest. This is just a game."
His story rivals the life story of Michael Oher, which was made into a major motion picture titled "The Blind Side". Even now, through all of his unfortunate life events, Willis remains a positive father figure to his family, even his father. Whom he respects, even though he was an abusive, alcoholic, drug addicted scourge, because his father did stay with the children. He did not leave like his mother did so many years ago. As he finished his interview with E: 60, his last concern was how ESPN was going to portray his father, and that he hoped the light shown upon him would not be too harsh.
The story of Patrick Willis should be a guide to how to live your life, and how one can achieve the most impossible things against the most impossible odds.
Related VideosReturning Soon!!!!
No related posts.
Short URL: http://sport-ne.ws/fc1