The 49ers chose Mississippi linebacker Patrick Willis with the 11th pick in the draft.
The coaching staff was taken with Willis during the week of Senior Bowl practices in January. The speedy linebacker had more than 128 tackles in each of the last two seasons at Ole Miss and the team believes he will immediately upgrade the San Francisco linebacking corps.
Willis Ė who appropriately wore No. 49 for the Rebels -- likely would play the so-called ďMikeĒ or left inside linebacker spot, a position veteran Jeff Ulbrich plays.
Iím heading over to the Santa Clara convention center to hear Mike Nolan talk about the pick. Iíll report back on what he says Ė and the teamís strategy from this point on Ė when I get back.
In the meantime, here are a few questions Willis answered in February at the scouting combine:
Q: People say youíre a two-down linebacker. Is that true?
A: I guess Iíll just let the facts speak for themselves. The last two years, injured or not injured, Iíve been out there every down. This season, I didnít come off for one snap. For the most part Iím good enough at my pass defense.
Q: Are you an outside linebacker?
A: The first two years in college I played outside linebacker, covered some slot receivers. Iíd say Iím confident in my abilities, but anything I need to do Iíll work on and do my best to get the job done.
Q: What was the Senior Bowl like?
A: I took the whole NFL perspective. Every day youíve got to come out and work and do your best. Being coached by Mike Singletary was a little like coach O, youíre being coached by someone who tells you to be perfect at what you do.
Q: What is your family situation?
A: I have guardians. They didnít adopt us, but they kind of took us in for five years. Because of some complications with my dad, my mom wasnít around.
Q: Nothing come easy for you. Is it gratifying to get to this point?
A: All my life Iíve brought the attitude, to work and improve myself.
So stepping up to this level, Iím going to have to do the same thing, regardless of what background I came from or what division I played at. Once youíre in the NFL, everybodyís got something to prove. It doesnít matter where you come from, as long as you show up when itís time.
Q: How do you assess your leadership skills?
A: I think my last two years I became more of a vocal leader. My first two years in college, I probably was trying to lead by example. Part of that was having great guys ahead of me like Eli (Manning) and some of the other guys. You had to show them you were ready to be on their side. I feel like Iím capable of being more vocal, but also leading by example at the next level.
-- Matt Barrows