Dave Wilcox played collegiate football at Boise Junior College before transferring to Oregon for his final two campaigns. At Boise, he earned junior college All-America honors. A guard on offense (after a move from tight end) and an end on defense, Wilcox played in the Hula Bowl, Coaches’ All-America Bowl and the College All-Star Game.
In 1964, he became the first defensive lineman in Hula Bowl history to earn outstanding lineman honors. In 1964, both the Houston Oilers of the young American Football League and the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League sought to sign the Oregon star. The Oilers drafted him in the sixth round (46th player overall) of the AFL Draft, while the 49ers tapped him in the third round (29th player overall) of the NFL Draft.
The 6-3, 241-pound Wilcox opted to sign with the more established 49ers, where he went on to star for 11 seasons. Converted to the outside linebacker position, Wilcox quickly established himself as one of the league’s finest. Nicknamed “The Intimidator,” he was ideally suited for the position, both mentally and physically. Known for his ability to disrupt plays, he was particularly tough on tight ends. He simply didn’t let anybody off the line of scrimmage, whether to block or get into a pass route. Always prepared, Wilcox was a true student of the game and worked to be “fundamentally correct.”
He thrived on action and wanted it all directed his way. “What I do best,” Wilcox once stated, “is not let people block me. I just hate to be blocked.” Hall of Fame linebacker Joe Schmidt was impressed by his strength. “He gave us fits,” he remarked. “The lead block had to really come out hard to take him out because he was so strong.” Aided by his speed and long reach, he was also effective in pass coverage and managed to intercept 14 passes during his career.
Following each season, San Francisco would rate their players based upon their performance. The typical score for a linebacker was 750. Wilcox’s score in 1973 was 1,306. That season, the veteran linebacker recorded 104 solo tackles, four forced fumbles and tackled opposing ball carriers for a loss 13 times. Durable, Wilcox missed only one game during his career due to injury. Five times he was named All-NFL (1967,1970, 1971, 1972, 1973) and three times All-NFC (1971, 1972, 1973). He was also selected to play in seven Pro Bowls.