Michael Wilhoite has been here before.
For the second year in a row, the 27-year-old is tasked with filling in for an all-pro member of the San Francisco 49ers linebacking corp. Last time it was Patrick Willis. Now, it’s NaVorro Bowman, who could be sidelined for the entire first half of the season. As he explained on the third day of training camp, Wilhoite is feeling better prepared than he did a season ago.
“Much more confident,” said Bowman. “Last year it was almost kind of like an if situation. If I get out there, will I be ready?
This year, Wilhoite definitely is. The linebacker credits all the talented players around him for easing the transition.
“What helps me the most is that they’re all so good, they’re all so smart, they’re all experienced. All I’ve got to do is just go out there and fill in and just kind of play my role, and do my job the best I can.”
A lesson that Wilhoite has taken from Willis and Bowman is that the learning process is never over.
“That’s the one thing I’ve learned from Pat and Bow, there always—just those guys, to me they’re the best in the business— and they’re always learning. So, if they’re always learning, you know, I can never learn too much.”
Wilhoite is unfazed by the fact that he’s taking over for one of the top linebackers in the NFL.
“I don’t see it as daunting at all. I see it as a great opportunity for someone else to step up and make a name for themselves and help this defense and help this team win more games.”
“That’s the challenge.”
“We’re not replacing Joe Shmoe. We’re replacing the best. That means you have to be the best. You can’t be Joe Shmoe or just another guy. Good will get you beat.”