49ers’ Trent Williams is the best LT of his generation. Is this his best chance at a ring?

Hall of Fame left tackle Walter Jones knows a fellow elite tackle when he sees one. 

And when Jones watches San Francisco 49ers left tackle Trent Williams, he sees a younger version of himself. 

“All linemen, the great ones, they have people they look up to,” Jones told FOX Sports. “For me, I looked up to Anthony Munoz. So, for this kid to look up to me and say that’s the guy that I watch, that’s something I talked about all the time as far as setting a standard and knowing that someone is watching you at all times. For him to be wearing that same number just because of that, that’s pretty amazing.

“But it’s all about being consistent and doing the things you have to do to be prepared to play because you are one of the guys that are labeled one of the superstars on that team.”

The Oklahoma product grew up idolizing Jones, even switching to No. 71 like the former Seattle Seahawk. Williams, 35, is considered the NFL’s best left tackle and has a chance to earn a Super Bowl ring on Sunday.

“It would be like one of those fairy tales,” Williams told reporters this week, when asked about winning the Super Bowl. “It’s like something you can only dream about. It’s hard to even describe what that feeling would be like because I’ve never felt that feeling before. But I would imagine it would be a memory that we would remember for life.”

Five years ago, Williams wasn’t sure he would make it to this point. He was diagnosed with Dermatofibrosarcoma Protuberans, a rare form of skin cancer. Told by doctors to get his affairs in order, Williams had surgery to remove the life-threatening cancerous growth from his scalp. Several scalp reconstruction procedures followed, leaving open the question of whether he would play football again. 

“Sometimes you feel invincible, and I think I was at that point in my life,” Williams told reporters when asked about dealing with life-changing adversity. “It was a perfectly timed storm. I appreciate it, and it definitely changed my outlook on everything. I probably wouldn’t be the man I am today without going through that.”

The 6-5, 320-pound Williams prevailed through eight months away from the game for healing and recovery. And since joining San Francisco in 2020 via trade from the Washington Commanders, Williams has been a dominant force along the offensive line. An 11-time Pro Bowler, Williams was selected to the All-Pro first team for the third time this season.

With a win on Sunday, Williams would become just the third offensive lineman ever to have at least 10 Pro Bowl selections and a Super Bowl ring, joining Jonathan Ogden and Larry Allen.

An offensive co-captain, Williams is one of the leaders up front for one of the NFL’s best offenses. According to Next Gen Stats, the 49ers ran to the left side nearly 60 percent of the time and averaged 5.2 yards per carry when Williams has been on the field, compared to 3.2 yards per carry when he’s off the field. 

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Along with his dominant play, Jones likes Williams’ confident approach to his job, which includes leading his team out on the field with a boom box on game days and his attention to detail in how he wears his uniform.

In the locker room, Williams piles his belongings in two lockers, with a set of ropes bordering his area like the VIP section of a nightclub.

“You look at a lineman and sometimes they’ve got saggy pants on, and they really don’t care how they look,” Jones said. “Or they think just because they are big they can’t look good, too. And for me, I’m all about swag, fits and seeing how guys approach the game. 

“You look at all the linemen that are out there, especially the left tackles — and those are the athletes. Those are the guys with quick feet. Those guys played basketball, so they are OK with being at the front of the line. So, for me, I think that’s pretty cool that people are watching you. When you watch the game now, you have people watching the offensive linemen, where back in the day no one watched the offensive line.”

Williams likely will join Jones in the Hall of Fame when his playing days are over. And while he doesn’t know how much longer he will continue playing, Williams said talk of him ending his career after this year’s Super Bowl is premature. 

“I’m not planning on retiring any time soon,” Williams said. “I don’t want to put an expiration date on myself, but as long as God blesses me to go line up and play football at a high level, then I’ll be playing football.” 

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.

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