GREEN BAY, Wis. – Green Bay Packers legend Willie Davis (#87) died on Wednesday at age 85.
Davis was a 15th-round pick in 1956 by the Cleveland Browns, though he didn’t enter the league until 1958 following his service in the U.S. Army.
A guard and linebacker at Grambling, Davis was tried on both sides of the ball by the Browns until he was acquired in a masterful trade by Vince Lombardi.
Davis wasn’t happy – he had an opportunity to start on the offensive line in Cleveland – and considered quitting. Lombardi, however, saw what the Browns didn’t – his potential on defense.
“I consider speed, agility and size to be the three most important attributes in a successful lineman,” Lombardi told Davis. “Give me a man who has any two of those dimensions and he’ll do OK. But give him all three and he’ll be great. We think you have all three.”
Davis was, indeed, great. He was a five-time All-Pro and Pro Bowler and a member of the NFL’s all-1960s team in helping the Packers win five championships and the first two Super Bowls.
In 1981, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“Perhaps the greatest pass rusher in franchise history … “
Hall of Fame President & CEO David Baker said in a statement:
“Willie’s extraordinary athleticism was an undeniable factor in Green Bay’s winning tradition of the 1960s under Coach Lombardi. He helped the Packers through an unprecedented championship run and to two Super Bowl victories. Willie was a man of true character on and off the field. The Hall of Fame will forever keep his legacy alive to serve as inspiration to future generations.”
Davis played in all 162 career games. He played before sacks were an official stat but ranks as perhaps the greatest pass rusher in franchise history.
Off the field, Davis enjoyed tremendous business success … Read more.
PACKERS.COM – A eulogy of Davis’ pro football life alone would include the following:
- Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981, following a 12-year NFL career: two with the Cleveland Browns, from 1958-59, and 10 with the Packers, from 1960-69.
- First African-American captain in Packers history, starting in 1965 when Vince Lombardi appointed him to share the duties on defense with safety Hank Gremminger, who had lost his starting job in training camp. Davis became the sole defensive captain in 1966.
- Starting defensive left end on all five of Lombardi’s NFL championship teams.
- One of three defensive ends on the NFL 1960s All-Decade Team.
- Five time Pro Bowl choice. Five-time Associated Press All-Pro.
- Played in 138 games for the Packers, never missing one over 10 seasons.
- Inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1975.
- Member of the Packers’ board of directors from 1994 to 2005, and an emeritus member since. He was the second African-American member of the board.
- Analysts on NFL games for NBC from 1970-75.
- One of four candidates considered for the position of NFL commissioner in 1989 to replace Pete Rozelle.