NASHVILLE – Patrick Willis was a bright-eyed rookie when he arrived in the NFL in 2007 with the San Francisco 49ers.
In practices, he regularly competed against a versatile tight end by the name of Delanie Walker, who was in his second NFL season.
"Vernon Davis was a heck of a tight end, but I always thought that Delanie Walker was an amazing player back then," Willis recalled on the night he was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. "He did everything, from playing tight end to fullback to special teams. I could tell from the beginning he was a special player. I always thought he was the X factor on our teams back then."
Fast-forward to today.
A hard-hitting linebacker, Willis retired from the NFL following the 2014 season after being named to seven Pro Bowls and five All-Pro teams in eight seasons.
Walker is heading into 14th NFL season, and he's coming off a gruesome ankle injury.
Willis has no doubt his buddy and former teammmate will return to form.
Walker has been named to three Pro Bowls since joining the Titans in 2013, and from 2013-2017 Walker led all NFL tight ends with 356 receptions while ranking third with 4,156 yards.
Willis said he expects Walker to pick up where he left off before the injury.
"He's going to go out there and do his thing," Willis said of Walker. "Delanie, that's one person that if I had to put a lot of chips on, I'd bet on him every time. There's something in him that makes him an amazing athlete, and he's a great person as well. I have no doubt that he's going to come back and be better than ever."