He was the captain of one of the greatest defenses in NFL history and a man who challenged the racism of the mid-20th century by becoming a leader in the business world.
Willie Davis, the co-captain of Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers, has passed away. He was 85 years old.
For 10 years, Davis was the anchor of the defensive line of the Packers. He led the defensive unit that helped the Packers to win five NFL championships in 1961-62 and 1965-67, the only triple-championship team in NFL history.
He was a four-time first-team All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowler and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He was the Packers’ first African-American team captain and the second, along with Jerry Kramer, to be integrated roommates on an NFL team.
Some of his greatest moments include:
– “The Million Dollar Fumble,” forcing Johnny Unitas of the Baltimore Colts into a late-game fumble that led to a late-season Packers win, clinching the Western Conference title
– Sacks in Super Bowl I and II that helped lead to victories over Kansas City and Oakland, respectively.
The NFL named him one of the top 100 players in league history in 2010.
During his off-seasons, he studied for his masters degree at the acclaimed University of Chicago business school.
After his NFL career, he became a business leader in Milwaukee and Los Angeles in both the beer and broadcasting industries, starting All-Pro Broadcasting.
He served on countless boards of directors in both the Fortune 500 and philanthropic worlds, including the boards of the Packers and Marquette University.
His family says a funeral service will be private, with a future public memorial to come.
“It is with great sadness the entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Willie Davis,” said David Baker, the president of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“Willie’s extraordinary athleticism was an undeniable factor in Green Bay’s winning tradition of the 1960s under Coach Lombardi. He helped the Packers through an unprecedented championship run and to two Super Bowl victories. Willie was a man of true character on and off the field. The Hall of Fame will forever keep his legacy alive to serve as inspiration to future generations.”
“The Green Bay Packers Family was saddened today to learn about the passing of Willie Davis,” said Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy in a team statement.
“One of the great defensive players of his era, Willie was a significant contributor to the Packers’ five NFL championship teams during the 1960s. I enjoyed getting to know Willie and his wife, Carol, especially when he served as our honorary captain for the 2010 NFC Championship game and Super Bowl XLV, and again for the 2014 NFC Championship game. He was a great role model for our players, having gone on to a very successful career after football and serving on the Packers Board of Directors.We extend our deepest condolences to Carol, as well as their family and friends.”
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