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Willie Davis, Hall of Fame Defensive End, Is Dead at 85 Press "Enter" to skip to content

Willie Davis, Hall of Fame Defensive End, Is Dead at 85

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Davis’s mother feared for her son‘s safety if he played college football, but Robinson assured her all would be well. “We finally convinced his mama,” Robinson was quoted by Grambling as having said. “We promised her that we would see that he got Sunday school and church.”

Davis became a black college All-American, and Grambling went unbeaten in 1955, his senior season.

Pro scouts were on hand to see Willie Gilmore, the star running back for Florida A&M, play against Grambling in that season’s Orange Blossom Classic in Miami, an annual postseason game matching Florida A&M against another historically black college. Galimore went on to become an outstanding runner for the Chicago Bears, but Davis caught the scouts’ eyes as well, making a host of tackles in Grambling’s victory.

Davis gained little notice playing two seasons for the Browns, but Lombardi liked what he saw in game films and obtained him in a 1960 trade for A.D. Williams, a receiver, who would last only two more seasons in the league.

As a student, Davis was on the dean’s list at Grambling, majoring in math and industrial arts, and he obtained a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Chicago in 1968, having attended classes in his off-seasons.

After leaving football, he forged a highly successful business career. He owned a beer and wine distributorship in Los Angeles, headed the radio network All-Pro Broadcasting and was a board member of many corporations.

Davis’s survivors include his wife, Carol; a son, Duane; a daughter, Lori; and four grandchildren.

When the Packers obtained Davis in 1960, Lombardi said that he had all the attributes any coach would want.

“You look for speed, agility and size,” Lombardi once said. “You may get two of these qualities in one man, and when you have three, you get a great player. In Willie Davis, we have a great one.”


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