Willie Davis
refer to caption
Davis (far left) playing for the Packers in Super Bowl I
No. 77, 87
Position:Defensive end
Personal information
Born:(1934-07-24)July 24, 1934
Lisbon, Louisiana
Died:April 15, 2020(2020-04-15) (aged 85)
Santa Monica, California
Career information
High school:Booker T Washington (Texarkana, Arkansas)
College:Grambling State
NFL Draft:1956 / Round: 15 / Pick: 181
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Fumbles recovered:22
Games played:162
Player stats at NFL.com · PFR

Willie D. Davis[1] (July 24, 1934 – April 15, 2020) was an American professional football player who was a defensive end in the National Football League (NFL). Davis played college football for the Grambling State Tigers before being drafted 181st in the 1956 NFL Draft. He spent 12 seasons in the NFL, playing for the Cleveland Browns and the Green Bay Packers.

In the NFL, Davis was a five-time champion, including winning the first two Super Bowls under Vince Lombardi. Individually, Davis was a six-time All-Pro, and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981.


College career

Davis attended college at Grambling State University, where he played football for the Tigers at both offensive tackle and defensive end.[2][3]

Professional career

Davis was selected with pick number 181 in the 15th round of the 1956 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns, but he did not start his career until the 1958 NFL season due to military service in the United States Army.[4] Davis wore number 77 and played at various positions on both offense and defense for the Browns, before being traded to the Green Bay Packers in 1960.[4]

Davis wore number 87 during his career with the Packers, where he was moved to a permanent position at defensive end by Vince Lombardi. For 10 seasons, Davis anchored the Packers' defensive line, playing 138 consecutive regular-season games and part of 162 regular-season games for his NFL career. Davis was a member of all five of Lombardi's NFL title-winning teams and played in Super Bowls I and II.

Davis played in an era when neither tackles nor sacks were official statistics. However, John Turney, a member of the Professional Football Researchers Association, reports that Davis had in excess of 100 sacks during his 10-year Green Bay career (1960–69), "possibly more than 120," including a minimum of 40 over the 1963–65 seasons alone.[5] Davis himself is quoted as saying, "I would think I would have to be the team's all-time leader in sacks. I played 10 years and I averaged in the 'teens' in sacks for those 10 years. I had 25 one season. [Paul] Hornung just reminded me of that the other day."[5] Davis earned All-Pro honors 5 times (1962, 64–67). He was voted to the Pro Bowl five times (1963–67).

Davis recovered 21 fumbles over his Packers career, which, more than three decades removed from his retirement, remains a team record. The Packers honored his retirement with a Willie Davis Day on December 21, 1969. Davis served on the team's Board of Directors.

During his early years with the Packers, Davis along with other players, lived in the Hotel Northland. He often told the story about how he along with the visiting officials, CBS broadcasters and crew, etc. were awoken on the morning of the Ice Bowl by a wake-up call from the front desk announcing the time and that the temperature was 17 degrees below zero.

Davis was also credited with following Vince Lombardi's lead in having no one associated with the team treat any man differently regardless of race. Davis would intentionally take the leadership position to offer to have lunch and dinner with players that had never played on an integrated team or eaten at the same table with an African American. Davis proactively and positively ensured that they acclimated well to Lombardi's culture of inclusion.

Later life and legacy

In the early 1970s, Davis worked as a color commentator on NFL telecasts for NBC. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981. In 1986, Davis was named the Walter Camp Man of the Year. In 1987, he was given the Career Achievement Award from the NFL Alumni, and in 1988 he was elected to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame. In 1999, Davis was ranked number 69 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players.

Davis was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. He received his Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in 1968. He was a member of the boards of Alliance Bank, Dow Chemical (1988–2006), Johnson Controls (1991–2006), K-Mart, L.A. Gear, Manpower (2001–2020), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (1999–2020), MGM Mirage, Rally's Inc., Sara Lee (1983–2020), Schlitz Brewing, and WICOR Inc.[6] He was president of All-Pro Broadcasting, operators of radio stations KHTI, KATY-FM, WLDB-FM, WLUM-FM, and WZTI since 1976.

Davis' son is actor Duane Davis, known for his role as "Featherstone" in Necessary Roughness. He also had a daughter, Lori Davis a lawyer known for her work in marijuana legislation within the Los Angeles children’s court system. Davis' grandson, Wyatt Davis, was an All-American guard at the Ohio State University, and currently plays for the Minnesota Vikings.[7]

After being hospitalized for a month due to kidney failure, Davis died on April 15, 2020, at the age of 85.[8]

During the 2020 season, the Green Bay Packers wore a helmet decal to honor Davis, featuring his name and number.[9]


  1. ^ Willie D. Davis
    • Carlson, Chuck (2004). Game of My Life: Memorable Stories of Packer Football. Sports Publishing LLC. p. 57. ISBN 1582618143. Retrieved March 18, 2016.
    • "Willie Davis - Class of 1981". Packers.com. Green Bay Packers, Inc. Retrieved March 18, 2016.
    • "FNF Company Profile and Executives - William Delford Davis, 80". wsj.com. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 18, 2016.
    • "Willie Davis statistics". Pro-Football-Reference. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved March 18, 2016.
    • "MGM Resorts International - company description". barrons.com. Barron's. Retrieved March 18, 2016.
    • Clark, Kristine Setting (2008). Legends of Hall: 1950s. Arcadia Publishing. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-7385-6169-1.
  2. ^ "Willie Davis earned reputation as one of league's greatest pass rushers". www.packers.com. Retrieved 2020-02-04.
  3. ^ Smith, Don (1985). "Willie Davis: Speed, Agility, and Size" (PDF). Pro Football Researchers.
  4. ^ a b "Willie Davis | Pro Football Hall of Fame Official Site". www.profootballhof.com. Retrieved 2020-02-04.
  5. ^ a b "Letters To Lee Remmel". packers.com. 2004-07-20. Archived from the original on 2008-10-12. Retrieved 2019-08-13.
  6. ^ Investor's Business Daily (2017-01-21). "It's Been All Business For Packers Great, Entrepreneur Willie Davis | Investor's Business Daily". Investor's Business Daily. Retrieved 2020-02-04.
  7. ^ Landis, Bill (November 29, 2019). "How Ohio State stole Wyatt Davis, and the delicate balance it now faces with offensive line change". The Athletic. Retrieved February 7, 2020.
  8. ^ Christl, Cliff (April 15, 2020). "Packers legend Willie Davis dies at 85". Green Bay Packers, Inc. Archived from the original on April 15, 2020. Retrieved April 15, 2020.
  9. ^ "Packers to honor Willie Davis with helmet decal in 2020". www.packers.com. Retrieved 2020-09-14.