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NFL Linebacker Patrick Willis Loves His Dog

As we watch The San Francisco 49ers go deeper into the post-season playoffs, we are rooting for linebacker Patrick Willis to do well. Willis is widely considered to be one of the best defensive players in the NFL. Known for his fearless, physical style of play on the field, Willis has a gentle persona off the field and a soft spot for dogs. The Bark spoke with Patrick last year about his new (then) housemate, a young Pit Bull named Zeus.

The Bark: Tell us about your dog.
Patrick Willis: My little man Zeus, he’s not so little anymore, he’s only 10-months-old and over 80 lbs. I’ve been wanting a dog for sometime, and with all my family  back in Tennessee, you come back to a empty house all the time, it gets kind of lonely. I need to add a little life to the mix—so, I adopted Zeus, an 8-week-old Pit Bull.

B: What’s he like?
PW: He listens well, and is great with people, particularly my little brother and sister. He can be a stubborn at times like all kids when they are young. The one thing he does is tear up his bed, we’re working on that. He’s just an amazing dog, I love him.

B: During the season you must travel a lot …
PW: When I’m on the road, I really miss him, I have a great dogsitter who cares for him while I’m away—she takes him to the beach, to playdates with his BFF. I know he’s in good hands til I get home. It makes it easier on my heart.

B: How did you name him?
PW: I’ve always liked the Greek gods, and Zeus was the most powerful of them all—so I named him Zeus.

B: You are involved with a scholarship program sponsored by Duracell that provides tuition and transportation to attend ProCamps run by professional athletes like yourself. To underscore their mission, they’ve produced a short video on your young life, and it is quite inspiring. Tell us about it.
PW: The program is called “Trusting Your Power” and Duracell is donating $1 to Procamps for every #TrustYourPower tweet we generate with these interviews. The donations will be placed into a scholarship fund to help underprivileged kids attend the camps. I feel blessed to be a part of the program—I was once that kid and know how much attending a camp would have meant to me, so I am fortunate to be involved. Duracell hopes to send 1,000 underprivileged kids across the country to one of the approximate 40 different ProCamps.

B: Watching the video depiction of your childhood and all that you’ve overcome, do you feel a special affinity to Pit Bulls, a breed who are often misunderstood, and in a way the classic underdog?
PW: When you are young, you tend to be influenced by those around you—parents, adults, and for dogs, their owners—if you can surround them with love, show them that you care and you’ll be there for them, well, love is a powerful thing, the most powerful thing in the world. The love you give, you will get in return. It shows with Zeus.

B: What is the biggest thing you’ve learned with Zeus?
PW: The responsibility. Sometimes I’ve asked myself, what I have I got myself into … coming home after practice, making sure I attend to all of his needs, it’s a lot of responsibility—but I’m all he’s got, and he’s all I’ve got. It means a lot to me, and keeps me on my toes. I may be tired, but there’s no sleeping in, have to get up and take Zeus out for his walk. I want to make sure he’s not in need of anything. Sometimes I wish I had that growing up. Zeus and I, we take care of each other.

Cameron Woo is The Bark's co-founder and publisher. thebark.com
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Submitted by Anonymous | January 11 2013 |

Ummm I think I love this man!

Submitted by pjew | January 12 2013 |

A REAL man!

Submitted by carolina | January 12 2013 |

This is sooo sweet !!! This is the type of man our kids should be looking up to and inspired to be like .. not like that scum evil person name Michael Vick

Submitted by Shab 2 Fab | January 13 2013 |

What an awesome pittie lover. How can you get on the field with Michael Vick. Has to make ya sick.

Submitted by Anonymous | January 13 2013 |

Thank you Mr. Willis for taking care of such a wonderful dog! We need more ambassadors like you in the world!

Submitted by KellyQ | January 13 2013 |

Zeus is a beautiful boy! Thank you for adopting him and giving him a great life. I'm so glad pro atheletes are promoting responsible ownership and kindness to animals - they have such power to influence the next generation, its about time we see more positive messages about how to treat animals. Kudos, Patrick Willis!

Submitted by Anonymous | January 13 2013 |

What a beautiful boy!! Time to bring the trophy home, Daddy!! GO NINERS :))

Submitted by Christy | January 13 2013 |

Beautiful dog and great story, but three questions: Where was he "adopted?" I'm assuming he came from a shelter. Next, who did his ears (I'm hoping he was adopted from a shelter that way)? Lastly, is he neutered or does he plan to breed him?

Submitted by Anonymous | January 20 2013 |

The reality here is... I doubt seriously if a rescue would crop a puppies ears, especially at the age of 8 weeks... You might want to belives that this "Athelete" didn't do this to this puppy, but the Pit Rescue I worked for, for 5 years, would never waste money on that sort of thing when they need money for food, spay, neuters, and general expenses that come with really rescuing dogs. An 8 week old puppy is one of the easiest to place, especially of this color... It's the adults, the not so pretty colors, the normal looking pits, that are not so easy to find homes for, and we wouldn't have wasted money on cosmetic surgeries, like croping a puppies ears, when many adult Pitbulls die of hunger, and homelessness on the streets...

Don't get me wrong I'm glad this dog was adopted by someone who can advocate for the breed, but lets be real here, he probably did not adopt this puppy with his ears cropped.

Submitted by Fangwulf | January 19 2014 |

Exactly what I was thinking. I saw the cropped ears, saw how early he had adopted the puppy... the shelter likely neutered him before he went out (they will do it early if they have to, so the new owner cannot breed them) but they would not have done an unnecessary and rather brutal surgery.

Submitted by Dean Marie | January 13 2013 |

Thank you for setting an example to pit owners everywhere! Our breed need more people like you:)

Submitted by luvthosedogs | January 14 2013 |

Maybe there's hope that I could actually like NFL football again - if there are folks such as this wonderful man involved! THANK YOU, Patrick for providing such a good life with and for Zeus!

Submitted by Jenny | January 14 2013 |

I don't know ANYTHING about football...but I think I might have a gigantic crush on this guy after reading this :)

Submitted by Deborah Camp | January 14 2013 |

What a wonderful story, and how lucky Zeus is to have such a caring guardian. I hope his story inspires others, and I also hope people discover what a responsible pet owner he is. He and Zeus look like they are great companions for each other.

Submitted by Linda | January 14 2013 |

Fantastic REAL man!!!! Love him!!

Submitted by Anonymous | January 14 2013 |

From a niner and pittie fan you sir deserve nothing but kudos.

Submitted by Paul | January 14 2013 |

you go Patick....glad for you and Zeus....dogs are a real blessing

Submitted by Anonymous | January 14 2013 |

just make sure he GETS LOTS
of exercise.. love this breed...if he's tired, he won't tear up that bed

Submitted by Sammy2Socks | January 15 2013 |

Such a heartwarming story. We adopted 2 pitbulls as well. Can we clone Patrick one million times???? Thank you Patrick & best of luck to you. You're a true gentleman.


Submitted by Cind | January 15 2013 |

Love this article! Our red/brown pit is named Zeus also. Adopted him from an animal shelter and he's a sweet boy!

Submitted by T- | January 16 2013 |

Beautiful to finally see an Athlete in a a good light with the most amazing breed. I love this guy! Now if I can just get him to kick Vick's ass!

Submitted by C. | January 21 2013 |


Submitted by Anonymous | February 4 2013 |

He probably won't get the chance on the field. Seems Vick is looking for a job. LOL

Submitted by Lexi | January 16 2013 |

If I and my family weren't suck die hard (and we do every season) Raiders fans, this REAL MAN would make me want to become a Niner Fan. WTG!!!

Submitted by Kristen | January 21 2013 |

I think we can all relate to the "stubborn like kids" I love my pittie, and like a child can still have her moments :-) So glad you adopted your "hot mess" :-)

Submitted by Anonymous | January 26 2013 |

LONG BEACH! NOBODY CAME FOR KRINGLE! He has been at the shelter since 11/24 and his time is up on Sunday. Currently there are to many dogs (especially pit-bulls) at the Long Beach shelter. Kringle is ONLY 1 1/2 years old, and a sweetheart. Please share beautiful Kringle in the hopes to get him out before it's too late! ID: A482233. Call the Long Beach shelter at (562) 570-7387

Submitted by Anonymous | February 4 2013 |

Patrick, I just wanted to tell you how much I respect that you rescued a Pitbull. They are AWESOME dogs! I own 2 myself and I don't know that I have ever had a more loving dog than the 2 I have. I hope you will help spread awareness about this misunderstood breed. As I tell everyone I know, it's not the breed it's the owner that makes them mean. I have much respect for you <3

Submitted by Claudia | February 4 2013 |

I just have to say how wonderful that you got a rescue Pittie. I have a Pit/American Bulldog mix---I call him a "Bully mutt". They are such wonderful dogs. Their loyalty is unmatched! Please, keep up the good work---it is so worth it.

Submitted by victoria | June 5 2013 |

Do you think a person like him would be interested in making a donation to a rescue in sc that saves pitbulls from the shelter especially medically in need ones. They have been bait dogs, abused or hit by cars. They are becoming sanctuary dogs cause they can not be adopted down here and its hard to get them up north for lack of funds.

Submitted by Brenda | January 19 2014 |

I have a rescued Pit Bull named Hope!!! She is so sweet!

Submitted by Debbie | January 19 2014 |

Why did he cut the ears? Just sayin......

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