Patrick Willis has found success at a Silicon Valley tech start-up

AP

Former 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis moved quickly to bat down rumors of a comeback last year.

It’s not that football didn’t hold a special place in his life, but he quickly re-established himself after his playing days, and is now on his way to success in an entirely different field.

Via Sam Laird of Mashable.com, Willis has traded in football for a tech start-up, and he’s the vice president of a company called Open Source Storage.

“People always told me when I was growing up that if you want to be something great, you have to be this physical specimen that can jump up to here and all that,” Willis said. “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 said. “I’m a person that can’t speak about something until I’ve done it myself.”

His entry into the tech industry was almost accidental, as the neighbor who helped him with his bags from his car after a surgery turned out to be company owner Eren Niazi. Niazi doesn’t follow football and didn’t know who Willis was, but the two struck up a quick friendship that led to a job offer.

Willis is now a member of the company’s board and executive vice president for partnerships, and instead of going to Santa Clara to work out, he heads to an office park five days a week. And he doesn’t talk wistfully about his glory days on the field, saying he watched highlights and parts of some games last year but didn’t follow it closely.

“I don’t want to rest on what I’ve done and let that keep me from doing what I want to do,” Willis said. “I’d rather be reading something or diving into something and trying to figure it out. . . .

“I still respect it [football]. But my mind is past it.”

Willis has pivoted quickly, leaving surprised job candidates with the “Aren’t you?” look on their faces when he interviews them for jobs. But the fact that Willis is a leader in any facet is not surprising, at least to anyone familiar with his football career.

50 responses to “Patrick Willis has found success at a Silicon Valley tech start-up

  1. Vice President already, congratulations. I’ve been 12 years in the cubicle and haven’t missed a day but no promotion yet.

  2. The article doesn’t have a lot of detail but it seems like Willis’s number one qualification was living in a rich neighborhood next door to the CEO.

    You to can be a VP of a tech company if you have lots of money and live next to the CEO.

    It sounds like he is VP of human resources rather than anything tech related.

  3. SEAHAWK fan here. Hats off brother…respected the hell out of him even though we’re rivals, and wish him nothing but the best on his future endeavors.

  4. Good for him. I hope it pans out. It’s nice to read about a player making what he feels is the right decision for him and embracing the change that follows.

  5. Nice to hear a story about an athlete who isn’t going broke or getting his third DUI. Hard work always pays off.

  6. After what Patrick suffered through in his childhood, his success in life is truly astonishing. Now he’s throwing himself into “office work” with the same enthusiasm he had on the football field. What a role model he is for any young kid.

  7. ++++++++++++++++++++++
    razzlejag says:
    May 19, 2016 6:18 AM
    Vice President already, congratulations. I’ve been 12 years in the cubicle and haven’t missed a day but no promotion yet.
    ++++++++++++++++++++++
    We don’t know if Patrick or you work 12-hour days, invested money in the company, go over and above putting extra effort into everything you do, try to read and learn as much as possible on your own time to improve your jib knowledge…..or if you both just show up for work every day and spend your time surfing the internet and posting jealous comments on profootballtalk instead of working.

  8. Only a small investment of millions and the guy’s already a VP, one of 35 others that invested millions as well. Amazing for a start up !!

  9. Great Attitude and goal (s). I like the fact that he is in the position to influence youth from being an NFL Vet but wants to also show by example other routes to success. Keep up the good fight PW.

  10. Very cool stuff. Also, Im hearing rumblings about him bringing Terry the office linebacker out of retirement.

  11. This is similar to what Ryan Broyles was alluding to when discussing how he has been financially frugal.

    Having worn an NFL jersey, or any professional jersey, gives you a leg up if you play your cards right.

    Broyles mentioned instead of spending $100K+ on a car, partner with the owner and maybe do a commercial or signing at their establishment.

    Patrick Willis has name recognition and those who know his background would be proud to have him as an employee. He can use his work ethic and ability to play within a team to bring value to a company.

    He may not be able to talk confidently around the TECH world just yet but he will in no time.

  12. Anybody who knows his life story, none of this is surprising.
    He’s gonna figure out ways to excel in whatever he puts his mind too…..really happy for him…..he’s a good human being!

  13. favreisadouche says:
    May 19, 2016 8:56 AM
    Great to hear, but I’m not buying the neighbor not knowing who Patrick Willis was story
    —————
    I follow football fairly close. But if you gave me a test to match the pictures of last year’s probowlers face to their name I’d consider myself doing good if I get half right.

  14. favreisadouche says:
    May 19, 2016 8:56 AM
    Great to hear, but I’m not buying the neighbor not knowing who Patrick Willis was story
    ______________________

    Having lived in the Bay Area, I can believe it. Some people there are die hard fans and some are only vaguely aware that there are local teams.

    The other side of that is a lot of people move into the area for the tech industry, and they might be fans of other teams from original home towns. It is sort of like the San Diego situation where a lot of people move their for the weather and have no particular tie to the Chargers.

  15. lastnameiswilson says:
    May 19, 2016 6:37 AM

    SEAHAWK fan here. Hats off brother…respected the hell out of him even though we’re rivals, and wish him nothing but the best on his future endeavors.
    ————–

    FYI . . . Rams and Cardinals are in your division. Rams are now in LA and Cardinals are in Phoenix. At one time you used to be in the AFC west, but no Seahawk fan goes back that far.

  16. just got done commenting on Jenkins article about his 5 kids with 4 mothers… ugh. now we got something, even if he “bought” his position with a sizeable investment, who cares. he has found a path after football. you gotta believe his NFL experience and staying at Ole Miss thru his senior season will help him move on.

  17. When did everyone start believing a guy can go from MLB to viable tech VP with no training? Stop being a stupid teenager America.

    Good for him but this is a symbolic jesture aimed at creating publicity.

  18. eagleswin ,

    It’s kind of always the #1 thing, who you know. Or maybe you didn’t realize that the last time you went on a job interview when they asked you for your references.

  19. truthinesshurts says:
    May 19, 2016 7:59 AM

    ++++++++++++++++++++++
    razzlejag says:
    May 19, 2016 6:18 AM
    Vice President already, congratulations. I’ve been 12 years in the cubicle and haven’t missed a day but no promotion yet.
    ++++++++++++++++++++++
    We don’t know if Patrick or you work 12-hour days, invested money in the company, go over and above putting extra effort into everything you do, try to read and learn as much as possible on your own time to improve your jib knowledge…..or if you both just show up for work every day and spend your time surfing the internet and posting jealous comments on profootballtalk instead of working.

    Ummm, what exactly did he say that would constitute “jealousy”? Here’s a newsflash for you pal, people can actually work many years and not get a promotion even if they are doing the “extra things”. Some companies are cheap and don’t want to reward their employees with a higher paying position. Maybe it’s you who shouldn’t be “surfing the internet” judging people instead of working.

  20. Pat Willis was a great player and a quality individual so happy for his success off the field…… Boy we could use more dudes like him on the NFL now. Also want to give props to the Hawks fans for their words of respect I think that is very cool…..now if we can just get this rivalry back on track that would be nice.

  21. Some companies are cheap and don’t want to reward their employees with a higher paying position.

    So leave those companies, pretty simple.

    Even if just a symbolic position he didn’t necessarily earn or deserve, still much better to read these stories than anything that comes from the Johnny Failure reality show

  22. truthinesshurts says:
    May 19, 2016 7:59 AM

    We don’t know if Patrick or you work 12-hour days, invested money in the company, go over and above putting extra effort into everything you do, try to read and learn as much as possible on your own time to improve your jib knowledge…..or if you both just show up for work every day and spend your time surfing the internet and posting jealous comments on profootballtalk instead of working.
    ————————————
    Patrick Willis got the job because he lived next door to the guy.. Learn to read!

  23. Who says he doesn’t deserve it? I can see Willis lowering his shoulder and just crushing some cloud storage SLAs.

  24. What a great story for kids. “Be a freak athlete, get paid millions and millions for playing a game, and then you can have enough cash to invest in something and not need your body (anymore).” Ahhhh the true underdog story.

  25. Not a Niner fan, but ALWAYS respected Willis, dude definitely left it all on the field. This guy is one of the FEW professional athletes who gets the big picture. Wish you and your family the best in the rest of your life and future endeavors…
    Go get it Mr. Willis!

  26. This story is missing a few parts. Trying to make this sound like a feel-good story but the truth is it was all about money.

    Good on him for having it I guess… if that wasn’t Patrick Willis the ex-nfl player he would not have this job. He did not “work” for it learn it unless you talking about all the money he earned to invest in this opportunity.

    He obviously needed something to do and they worked that out… just get your checkbook mr. Willis…awww that’s a nice story.

    By the way I’ve always respected Patrick Willis the linebacker as a Seahawks fan he is one of the best ever in my opinion and he had been a real thorn in our side for many years. When he retired I was happy to see him go and sad to see him go at the same time. I just don’t like how this story was portrayed by the writer as I’m far more cynical as I get older about how this stuff works.

  27. I’m happy for Willis. He’s a great role model for young athletes to use the opportunity sports gives you to GET AN EDUCATION. If you’re fortunate enough to get a college scholarship, take advantage of that free education to learn and develop the mind as strongly as you developed your body. Hit the books as hard as you hit the weights and pads.

    I love these kinds of success stories.

  28. This is a worthy post. Willis is a beast on the field and a good man. Humble beginnings. Great story.

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