Football Player (Retired)
Born in Tennessee, Patrick Willis grew up in poverty and by age 10 he was already working full-time as a farmer. In high school, Willis lettered 4 times in football and basketball and 3 times in baseball. He was a 2-time All-State selection during his high school football career, a regional MVP and a West Tennessee Player of the Year. Willis attended the University of Mississippi where he won the Scholar-Athlete Award and other awards. He was a first round pick for the 2007 NFL draft and played all of his 8 years for the San Francisco 49ers. A toe injury and subsequent surgery ended his career. He has millions of followers on social media. Willis is 6 feet 1 inch tall, and weighs about 240 lbs.
Patrick Willis’s Diet
Although some football players follow very specific diets, Willis isn’t one of them. He eats a well-balanced diet, including plenty of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Because he is so big, he burns through a lot of calories in a day. Willis also makes a point to eat wild-caught fish and other anti-inflammatory foods to support his health and reduce the stresses of intense workouts and getting pummeled on the field.
- Low-Medium Carb 30% 30%
- Medium Fat 40% 40%
- High Protein 50% 50%
Power Up With Protein
Willis is a mountain of muscle, which he feeds by eating plenty of protein every day.
Exercise is good for the body, but it also creates free radicals that do damage if they aren’t flushed away. Some of the most anti-inflammatory foods include berries, avocados, broccoli and tomatoes.
Fats For Health
Willis eats wild-caught fish, which is high in healthy fats and omega 3s. Fat gets a bad rap, but the body needs it to function properly. Fish such as salmon contains anti-inflammatory omega-3s that also offer protective effects for the heart and brain.
What to Eat
What to Avoid
Willis on Nature vs. Nurture
‘I know that I’ve been blessed genetically, but I also know that I need to work hard to maximize my potential.’
Willis on Health and Football
‘I pay attention to guys when they’re finished playing, walking around like they’ve go no hips and they can’t play with their kids. They can barely walk.’
Willis on his Decision to Retire from Football
‘There’s more to my life than football…It’s my health first and everything else just kind of makes sense around it.’
Patrick Willis’s Fitness Routine
Inspired by his uncle who was a boxer, Willis made his own workout plates from a metal bar and concrete blocks.
Improve Every Day
Willis focuses equally on speed, strength and agility. He aims to do more reps, and do them better, every single day.
Willis really concentrates on his core because he says it’s where you find your strength and power to perform every other action.
In the off-season, Willis likes to box, and sometimes heads into the octagon with his pal and sportswriter, Jay Glazer.
Willis says no workout is complete until he has worked his abs. He likes to do his core workout before his leg routine because it’s important to have the core activated to get the most out of his exercises.
Visualize the Enemy
Willis says he does squats and benchpresses using barbells that weigh as much as the offensive players he’ll be tackling. A running back equals 225 lbs. for 6 reps while a tight end is 275 lbs. for 5.
Willis does dumbbell benches so that one arm doesn’t get stronger than the other. He also says it’s important to work the traps by doing shrugs.
Not a Cardio Fan
Willis says cardio is his least favorite part, but he powers through. Willis uses cardio to warm up the body before his workout. He’ll often use a step machine or treadmill.
A Patrick Willis Fitness Test
In forearm plank position with back straight, have a friend place a broom handle or dowel on your back.
It should touch 3 points: the back of your head, between the shoulder blades and tailbone.
Hold until you lose contact with those 3 points.
If you can last 60 sec, rest 2 min then try do another plank with feet up on bench (no dowel).
If you can do that for 60 sec, rest 2 min then move your elbows forward until they’re under your eyes and hold for 60 sec.
If you can do that, you’re on your way to being as fit as Willis.
Willis on his Homemade Weights
‘Sometimes the blocks would slide of the bar, but it was all I had so I made the best of it.’
Willis on the Importance of Core Work
‘Your core provides stability for everything: explosiveness, agility and strength.’
Willis on Complacency
‘I will never settle for good or even great because I know there is always room for improvement. I strive to be better every single day.’
Patrick Willis’s Supplements
Willis doesn’t talk about any supplements he may take, but protein is a sure bet for those looking to grow and maintain muscle.
Other antioxidants include green tea, turmeric and a green supplement, especially if you don’t eat as many veggies as you should.
Patrick Willis’s Lifestyle
Know When to Say When
Willis decided to quit the NFL because his injuries would no longer allow him to play at a peak level. He says it was the right decision because he wants to live a long and healthy life, unlike some other former ball players who sacrifice health for a few extra years on the field.
My Two Dads
Abandoned by his mother, Willis grew up in extreme poverty with a single father who was abusive. As a teen, authorities took Willis and his siblings away and placed them with his high school coach. Willis calls both his coach and his biological father ‘Dad.’
As if Willis didn’t suffer enough in his young life, his brother Detris drowned when he was 17 in a local swimming hole.
Willis has an online course for linebackers with drills, nutrition and film study, but he says he’s not ready to coach full-time, yet.
From Field to Valley
Willis has come a long way from his roots of picking cotton. After a chance meeting with a Silicon Valley startup owner, Willis accepted a position as Executive Vice President at Open Source, a data storage company.
Willis on Making Do
‘It’s not about what you have. It’s about working with what you have.’
Willis on his Game Goals
‘No matter the outcome of a game, my number one goal is to glorify God.’
Willis on Power
‘Power isn’t just about going forward. It’s about not letting anything hold you back.’
Willis on Adversity
‘Never let someone else’s opinion become your reality.’
Willis on Retirement
‘I have no regrets.’
Willis on Coaching
‘This game has taken up most of my life…Maybe later, when I’m around my 40s or something.’
Willis on using Brains as Well as Brawn
‘For me, this is an opportunity to be able to tell young kids that you can be more than just a physical specimen to be great.’
Willis Autographed Jersey