49ers legend Willis not voted into Pro Football Hall's 2023 class


Programming note: NFL Honors airs on NBC Bay Area at 9 p.m. PT on Thursday night.

PHOENIX — The Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2023 was announced on Thursday at NFL Honors.

Linebacker Patrick Willis, who starred for the 49ers and was a finalist for the Hall of Fame, did not make it.

Zach Thomas, a fellow former linebacker who received public support from Willis, was included in the nine-person class.

Thomas, defensive back Ronde Barber, coach Don Coryell, linebacker Chuck Howley, defensive lineman Joe Klecko, cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Ken Riley, offensive tackle Joe Thomas and edge rusher DeMarcus Ware were named to the Class of 2023.

The Class of 2023 will be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, Aug. 5, at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.

Willis, 38, was in his fourth year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame and his second year as a finalist. Obviously, Willis is a worthy candidate. It should be just a matter of time.

"I think it's a no-brainer that Patrick is a Hall of Famer," Ryans said last season. "He's always been a dominant player -- college, all the way through his time in the NFL.

"Patrick is one of the best linebackers to play the game. You talk about speed, you talk about physicality, you talk about smart -- he's everything that you want in an inside linebacker."

Willis has been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He was selected with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2007 draft from Ole Miss. He was NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, and he went on to earn seven Pro Bowl selections – and five first-team All-Pro honors – in his first seven seasons.

RELATED: Bosa captures NFL Defensive Player of the Year

Willis is patient when it comes to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He said in 2021 that he would prefer some of the older players, such as Thomas, get into the Hall of Fame before him.

"I just try to be in the now," Willis told ESPN. "If it takes another 20 years, that would be awesome. I'd rather see guys that are older and being able to enjoy it get my slot and I'll wait another three or four or five or 10 or 20 years to get in when I'm older.

"With that being said, if it happens one day it will be awesome. If not, it will still be awesome."

At NFL Honors, 49ers edge rusher Nick Bosa won Defensive Player of the Year and former defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans was named Assistant Coach of the Year. Kyle Shanahan (NFL Coach of the Year), Brock Purdy (NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year) and Christian McCaffrey (NFL Comeback Player of the Year) did not take home awards Thursday night.

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