Some NFL players go into broadcasting after retiring. Others decide to pursue a career in coaching. Many figure out a way to keep earning a paycheck by remaining close to the game.
Patrick Willis has taken a different route. The former All-Pro 49ers linebacker, who abruptly retired from the NFL in March of 2015 at the age of 30, has gone a different route: Thanks to Sam Laird at Mashable, we now know that Willis has joined all the tech geeks and hipsters in Silicon Valley.
The history is fairly simple. Willis lived in the same Silicon Valley neighborhood as Eren Niazi, a young tech entrepreneur. One day in 2014 Niazi spotted Willis, then recovering from toe surgery, struggling to carry some bags from his car to his house. Niazi, who's not a sports fan and had no idea who Willis was, offered to help. The two quickly hit it off.
Wills, who was drafted by the 49ers No. 11 in 2007, played eight seasons in the NFL, all in San Francisco. He was named an All-Pro five times and led the NFL in tackles twice. Injuries, however, derailed his final few seasons in the league and kept Willis out of 10 games in 2014, causing him to retire.
Two months after doing so, Willis joined Niazi's company, Open Source Storage, which provides storage and infrastructure to other companies. Willis was given a seat on the board and named executive vice president for partnerships. He interviews prospective hires and even has a LinkedIn page.
"I don't want to rest on what I've done and let that keep me from doing what I want to do," Willis told Mashable. "I'd rather be reading something or diving into something and trying to figure it out."
Willis says that he occasionally watches some a bits of football games or an occasional highlight, but for the most part he's removed himself from the sport.
"It just felt like, a lot of times in my other occupation, it was all about you as an individual," Willis said. "Here, I'm part of a team in a little bit of a different way."
Most former players miss the camaraderie of the locker room after retiring. Willis, it seems, had to leave the game in order to find it.