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.
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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.