When former San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis retired from the National Football League at the age of just 30 following the 2014 season, it caught a lot of people by surprise.
Why would Willis walk away from a game he was dominating after just eight years? His financial security aside, retiring while at the height of your profession is something we rarely see.
Now, more than a year removed from calling it quits on his NFL career, Willis himself is thriving as a professional in California’s famed Silicon Valley.
Willis has joined forces with tech savant Eren Niazi to lead a company called “Open Source Storage,” an infrastructure solutions outlet.
Currently serving as the executive vice president, Willis isn’t just a big name for Open Source Storage. He’s actually played a big role in the advancement of the startup.
According to Mashable, the company’s current vice president of marketing, Carrie Pendolino, was interviewed by both Niazi and Willis before being hired on to that role. In fact, Willis is involved in interviewing most of the company’s potential hires.
For Willis, this change of career was something he saw coming after hanging up his cleats.
“People always told me when I was growing up that if you want to be something great, you have to be this physical specimen that can jump up to here and all that,” Willis told Mashable. “For me, this is an opportunity to be able to tell young kids that you can be more than just a physical specimen to be great.”
Two months after he retired, Willis signed on full-time with Open Source Storage. This came after he had met Niazi while rehabbing from a football-related injuries months before.
Interestingly, their friendship began without Niazi knowing who Willis was.
“Usually when people walk up to me, they kind of already know who I am and have some motive,” Willis said. “But he (Niazi) just insisted like, ‘Let me help you with that.’ Then he just took off. I thought it was cool.”