Former 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis and defensive lineman Justin Smith are among the first-time eligible players nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020.
The Hall of Fame on Thursday released a total of 122 players who comprise the list of modern-era nominees. In order for a player to be eligible as a modern-era candidate, he must have played his final NFL season from five to 25 years ago.
Willis and Smith both retired as 49ers after the 2014 season.
Willis was selected to the Pro Bowl team in each of his seven full seasons in the NFL. In 2014, he played in only six games after experiencing foot issues that led to his retirement. Willis was the 2007 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and a five-time All-Pro selection. He led the league in tackles in 2007 and 2009.
Smith played 14 NFL seasons. He played his final seven seasons with the 49ers after spending his first seven seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. He was a five-time Pro Bowl selection and a one-time All-Pro pick.
Among the other notable first-time eligible Hall of Fame candidates are safety Troy Polamalu, defensive end John Abraham and wide receiver Reggie Wayne.
San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch, who earned nine trips to the Pro Bowl as a safety for Tampa Bay and Denver, returns as a nominee after being a finalist in each of the past six years.