There are some people that seem to be successful no matter what they do. Former San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis is apparently one of those people.

Willis was a fantastic linebacker. He made the Pro Bowl seven times in professional eight seasons and was named First-Team All-Pro five times before retiring early at the age of 30. Now, Willis is carving out a career in tech in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Willis retired last March, citing a desire to go out near the top while preserving his body for life after football. He wasted little time reflecting on his NFL career, and by April 2015 he was a vice president and co-owner of the tech company Open Source Storage. It is a long way from his days as a child picking cotton in Tennessee.

Willis picked cotton as a kid in Tennessee to help support his family. He and his siblings later moved in with a basketball coach to flee an abusive, alcoholic father. But sports — he was a two-time collegiate All-American at Ole Miss before the NFL — offered salvation. 

Now Willis sees something different in the business world. 

“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 told Mashable in an interview this week.

 “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.” 

Willis got his start in the tech industry thanks to an encounter with Eren Niazi, Open Source Storage founder and CEO. The two happened to live in the same neighborhood, and while Willis was recovering from surgery and struggling to move bags from his car to his house, Niazi stopped by to help. The two quickly struck up a friendship, and Niazi later offered him a chance for a new career path following his NFL retirement.

Now, Willis is one of the key players in a company with approximately 60 employees. The company itself focuses on data and storage consultation and support to other companies, according to Enterprise Tech.

Along with reducing storage costs, Open Source Storage stresses its ability to migrate customers away from proprietary “lock-in” storage systems. The company’s core products include storage, servers and open standard solutions tailored to hyper-scale data center needs, including soaring web traffic workloads requiring greater storage capacity and bandwidth.

Although Willis enjoyed one of the most successful football careers of any linebacker, he is not dwelling on the past. His attention is focused on his new team, Open Source Storage.

“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.” 

Now that he is a true business professional, he even has a LinkedIn page. Willis set the standard for linebacker play in the NFL for many years, and now he is aiming to set the standard for post-football life as well. So far it appears to be a roaring success.

About Ben Sieck

Ben is a recent graduate of Butler University where he served as Managing Editor and Co-Editor-in-Chief for the Butler Collegian. He currently resides in Indianapolis.