Willie Davis’ pro football career got off to a discouraging start. The Cleveland Browns drafted him in 1956, but Army service intervened and he didn't join the team until 1958. In his first two seasons, he played briefly at several different positions. Just when he appeared ready for a regular offensive tackle job in 1960, he was suddenly traded to Green Bay.
Willie was surprised and upset and briefly considered quitting. However, the Packers coach, Vince Lombardi, quickly assured Davis that Green Bay needed a top-flight defensive end and he thought Willie was the man. "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 okay. But give him all three and he'll be great. We think you have all three."
Davis also possessed the intangibles – dedication, intelligence, leadership – that enabled him to rise a cut above almost everyone else. He was also as durable as he was dedicated, never missing even one of a possible 162 games in his 12-year tenure.
Davis, a hard-hitting, big play defender, frequently dropped opposing ball carriers or quarterbacks for losses and or caused them to lose possession of the football. Always on the prowl, he recovered 21 opponents' fumbles during his career, just one shy of the record when he retired.
Davis’ outstanding play did not go unnoticed. He was an All-NFL selection five times in six years from 1962 to 1967 and selected to play in five consecutive Pro Bowls. Undeniably Willie Davis was a major factor in Green Bay’s winning tradition of the 1960s that included five NFL championships and six divisional titles in eight seasons. Included in the historic championship run were impressive victories in the first two Super Bowls.
William Delford Davis
July 24, 1934
Booker T. Washington (Texarkana, AR)
Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame:
January 24, 1981
Enshrined into Pro Football Hall of Fame:
August 1, 1981
Eddie Robinson, Davis' Coach at Grambling
Other Members of Class of 1981: Morris "Red" Badgro
, George Blanda
, Jim Ringo
12 seasons, 162 games
15th round (181st overall) by Cleveland Browns
87 (77, 89)