NFL Any Era: Patrick Willis

Hall of Famer Marcus Allen shouldn't look back; Patrick Willis is gaining on him. ESPN.com Illustration

Patrick Willis checks in at No. 7 on the ESPN.com/ESPN The Magazine's NFL Any Era team.

Twenty Pro Football Hall of Famers determined Willis has the toughness and overall game to match up with anyone, at any time, in any era of NFL history.

No argument here.

"First off, it is truly an honor and a blessing to be picked by those guys," Willis said. "Those are guys that I will forever look up to, whether I got a chance to watch them play or just hear something about them. My ultimate goal is to get to be in the Hall of Fame, to be one of those players when people talk about the game forever, to be one of those guys that is recognized for playing the game the right way and giving it everything you got."

Willis is well on his way. He has five Pro Bowls and five All-Pro selections (four of them first team) in his first five NFL seasons. He has no real weaknesses.

And, as Any Era panelist Mike Ditka put it, "Patrick Willis knocks the crap out of guys."

That, too.

Toughness was a key component for Any Era consideration. Willis and others expanded on that theme in relation to him for a piece running in conjunction with the project.

Willis' teammate, Parys Haralson, captured it pretty well.

"You can talk about being tough, but once you turn on the film and see the way a person plays, the things that a person does, the amount of snaps they play, the way they play, the way they take on blocks, the way they get off blocks, the way they tackle -- everything -- to me that is the toughness," Haralson said. "Being able to play tough and going out and showing that you are tough with your play, not saying you are tough."