Question & Answer with Hall of Famer Dave Wilcox

Hall of Famer Q&A archive

Dave WilcoxWeek 17: DAVE WILCOX
Enshrined in 2000
(Boise Jr. College, Oregon)

1964-1974, San Francisco 49ers

Nicknamed "The Intimidator" for aggressive style of play … Considered by many to be the finest outside linebacker of his era … Particularly effective at keeping tight ends from getting off line … Prided himself on not allowing opponents to block him … All-NFL five times … Named All-NFC three times … Elected to seven Pro Bowls.



Dave, Congrats on your induction - it was richly deserved. Who were your favorite tight ends to play against? Which present day outside linebackers do you like the most?
Really none of them because they're all really good players. But, I really liked to play against the guys I actually knew somewhat. You know, John Mackey, and Ron Kramer who used to play with the Packers and played for the Lions. Of course, coach Ditka was always fun to play against. You like to play against the good players - they're all different. Like Jackie Smith - I used to love to play against him but he was different than the other guys. Anyhow, like I said before, I just liked to play in the games, I thought they were all kind of a challenge. Everybody we played against were pretty doggone good players.

The one I really kind of enjoy watching - I know he's been hurt - is the kid (Julian) Peterson who plays for the 49ers now. But, they all play a little bit different than we did back in the old days because of their speed. And, I like the kid from Miami - although I don't think he's an outside linebacker, he plays in the middle there - Zack Thomas. I don't know if I have a favorite, I just kind of watch the game and typically don't pay too much attention unless it's someone I know. The kid that went to school with my son at Oregon plays at Tennessee now, his name is Peter Sirmon - plays on their second team, does a lot of stuff - but he's kind of my favorite.


Mr. Wilcox, As an Oregonian and a 49er fan, I wanted  to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your HOF induction. You have made all of us proud and helped us to realize an honor that many of us thought was overdue. It was my pleasure to meet you once at the Payless Golf Classic several years back. I guess the only question I would ask other than how your sons are doing is what current player most reminds you of yourself? - David R. Jothen
DW: I'm not sure I can answer that because, like I said, they all play different. I don't know what player I could name. But, my sons are doing great and they're probably doing a lot better today after the Oregon Ducks beat Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl a couple of days ago. The old Payless golf tournament - I remember that. I met Ron Shipp - Ron lives in Eugene now - he's the guy who ran that Payless tournament years ago back in Portland.

Hi Dave. How did you get the nickname the "Intimidator" and what was the 49ers-Rams rivalry like during your playing days? Rich Hansen, Pt. Pleasant
"The Intimidator?" I'm not sure where that all came from. I bet some sportswriter, maybe Al Corona from the Examiner way back when, misspelled a word or something.
The Rams thing - I'm sure it was a lot of fun for them when we were playing the Rams because they used to beat us all the time. We used to play the Rams three times a year - it was always the last preseason game and then we always played two games during the regular season so, God, it seemed like you were playing each other every other week. It was really a lot of fun looking back now but it wasn't fun when they used to beat us all the time.

The 49ers kind of got on the other side of that and started beating the Rams all the time. I don't know where they are today in numbers of wins. But, it was fun. There were some great players on the Rams at that time, especially the defensive guys - Merlin Olsen, and Deacon (Jones) and all those guys.

Dave WilcoxWho was the toughest running back you ever faced?
Every one that ever carried the ball! We played against a lot of the great players. I played in the game when Gale Sayers scored six touchdowns. I think that that day, Gale Sayers was the greatest player I ever played against. Jim Brown - we played in a preseason game against him but he didn't play much. He was a great player. Jim Taylor with the Packers. I loved to play against those guys. You knew what they were going to do all the time; you just had to figure out how to go about it the best. Lenny Moore of the Colts. It can go on and on and on. There was Calvin Hill of the Cowboys, Floyd Little of Denver - we used to play them a lot. But, I think of all the players in the games that I played, the greatest performance would have to be Gale Sayers.

Is the athlete today different than in your playing days?
Well, for one thing, they're a lot younger than I am right now. I'm not sure they're better athletes. I have to go back here for a second - I played college with a guy named Mel Renfro. He played for the Cowboys. He was on the world record-holding track team at Oregon in the 440-yard relay and long jumped almost 26 feet. Paul Warfield was the same type of athlete. Maybe there's more now than there was back then but they were great athletes. Kids today tend to be more specialized, if you will, than we were. When I was in college, we played both ways - ran down on punts, kickoffs, played defense, played offense. And, the kids today don't do that. But, overall, the game is a fast speed game today, it's not like it was back 40 years ago.

Had you given up on the thought of being elected to the Hall of Fame and did waiting so long diminish the honor for you?
No, not really. I really never thought too much about it until about seven or eight years ago when Mike Giddings, my old linebacker coach, called me one day. It was after the Hall of Fame ceremonies and he said he had been talking to a bunch of people. He wanted to know if I'd be offended if he started lobbying on my behalf. I said no. But, I didn't lay awake at night thinking, 'Gosh darn it, I want to be in the Hall of Fame.' It's a great honor, absolutely, to be associated with all those players. But, I did what I did back when I played and if it was good enough to get there, I would get there. If it wasn't, I probably wouldn't.

I've been talking to a couple of guys (Hall of Famers) here last year about the Hall of Fame selection. It's a very, very difficult job for those people who select the guys because of the numbers of people they have to consider. And as you go along in years, it's only going to get harder. Anyhow, it's a great honor. We enjoyed it immensely - had a great time. It was kind of fun for me to see a lot of the guys that I played against or with after 30 or 40 years. What a wonderful time!


Has any one single person had the greatest impact on your life - on the field or off?
There's a lot of people who have influences on your life as you go along - of course, your parents, your brothers, sisters, and cousins, high school coaches. I was really lucky during my playing career because I had wonderful coaches. I don't know if you can put one ahead of the other. Arnie Lewis was my high school coach. Ray Lewis and Lyle Smith at Boise Junior College. When I came to the University of Oregon, there was a guy named Len Casanova who was our coach at that time. Then, I went to San Francisco and Jack Christiansen and Dick Nolan. Of all of those if you had of select one, it would probably be Len Casanova. By the way, he's 96 years old and still putting around up here in Oregon and doing well.

Maybe, I kind of generalize it but I think of all your teammates, your buddies, and all the guys that you played with. Football is a team game, it's not an individual thing and I guess that's why I enjoyed playing it.

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