Willie Wood is another of the talented athletes who teamed to give Green Bay pro football dominance in the 1960s. Yet the 5-10, 190-pound University of Southern California quarterback who specialized in running the ball, was not drafted by any National Football League team.
He had to seek a tryout and prove his worth before the Packers accepted him as a free agent in 1960. Within a short time, Willie was recognized as a premier free safety in the NFL. He became a starter in his sophomore 1961 season and held that job for more than a decade until his retirement following the 1971 campaign.
Wood, who was born in Washington, D. C., won first- or second-team All-NFL honors nine times in a nine-year stretch from 1962 through the 1970 season. A Pro Bowl participant eight times, 1963, 1965 through 1971, Wood also played in six NFL championship games. The Packers won all but the first one in 1960.
Willie also was the starting free safety for Green Bay in Super Bowl I against the Kansas City Chiefs and Super Bowl II against the Oakland Raiders. His 50-yard interception return of a Len Dawson pass early in the third quarter of Super Bowl I broke open a close contest and paved the way for the Packers’ 35-10 triumph over the Chiefs.
Like many Packers who had a chance to handle the football, Wood compiled impressive statistics with 48 career interceptions, which he returned for 699 yards and two touchdowns. He won the NFL interception title in 1962 with nine steals. Doubling on the punt return team, Willie also won the league punt return championship with a 16.1-yard average in 1961. In 12 years, he carried back 187 punts for 1,391 yards and two touchdowns.