Forgotten and undesirable at a time when the NFL project included 20 rounds, Willie Wood signed with the Packers as a free agent and became one of the NFL's best free security features. Faster than he was fast, he was an instinctive center player and a perfect and thin form tackler.
"Pound against pound, Willie was the best tackle of the game," said coach Vince Lombardi. Mike Ditka agreed. "He has me down many times, almost to keep," Wood said Ditka.
During the college football era in a single platoon, which spanned the years 1953 to 1964, the substitution rules essentially forced players to play both offensive and defensive. Wood, in turn, doubled as quarterback and defensive back to USC.
To see the match on both sides would not have been a better training for Wood's professional career. He acquired a natural sense of defense and intercepted 48 passes, the second highest total in the history of the Packers.
His most productive season was 1962, when he intercepted nine of the league. His most important game was his decisive 50-yard interception return at the start of the second half of the Super Bowl I. Leading by four points at the time, the Packers scored on a 5-yard run in the next game and broke out for 35- 10 win.
Wood was also the Packers' first boxer kicker from 1960 to 1966 and led the NFL in 1961 with an average of 16.1 points, including two touchdown returns. His career average was 7.4 yards. In the early 1960s, Wood also took care of the Packers' housework.
Wood has been selected for the Pro Bowl eight times, was selected among the five Lombardi teams for the NFL and defensive captain of the Packers from 1970 to 1971. "He was the mainstay of the defense," said Pat Peppler, director of the player's staff, Lombardi. in his last five seasons as a coach. Dave Hanner, who spent 44 years in the NFL as a player, coach and scout, said, "I think Willie Wood was as good a tackler as I've ever seen."
Wood was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 1989.
"He is the most daring of the secondary defensemen," said Packers defenseman Norb Hecker's coach in 1963. "He has wonderful reactions and he can jump like a kangaroo." We have an exercise where the backs Defensives jump and try to touch the crossbar of the goalposts, Willie is only 5-10 years old and he can touch the crossbar with his elbow.He is also perhaps the best tackler of the ball club. "
The Packers signed Wood on January 4, 1960, as a non-qualified free agent, according to his personal record at the NFL office. Embarrassed by shoulder injuries in his last two seasons at USC, Wood was not selected by an NFL team or a rival of the American Football League.
The Packers began to interest him after Bill Butler, sports instructor of the Metropolitan Police Boys Club in Washington, DC, Wood's hometown, had written a letter to Lombardi on Wood's behalf. The letter was dated December 10, 1959, 10 days after the NFL Bill of 1960. On December 29, 1959, Jack Vainisi, Commercial Director of the Packers, wrote to Butler and informed him that Wood s & # 39, was offered a contract.
At his first camp, Wood quickly examined the quarterback and showed both a sizeable and sufficient arm strength. In fact, when Joe Francis fractured one leg eight days after the start of the camp, Lombardi said Wood would replace him as a No. 3 quarterback. Then on August 2, 1960, 11 days after the camp started. Lombardi changed his mind and placed Wood in defense. In his sixth rookie match, Wood was summoned to injured cornerback Jesse Whittenton and awarded two touchdown passes to future Hall of Fame member Raymond Berry.
A year later, despite his unpleasant debut, Wood took over for safety in training camp and began every game for the duration of his career. While the Packers did not perform their security, Wood was generally free security while left-hand security was generally the most powerful security. In 12 seasons, Wood did not miss any matches and played 166 games.
Wood announced his retirement on January 19, 1972 to become a defensive coach in San Diego, where he spent three seasons. He then served as head coach of the Philadelphia Bell World Football League in 1975 and the Toronto Argonauts of the 1980 Canadian Football League until it was returned 10 times in the 1981 season. When Wood was appointed head coach of the bell July 29, 1975, four days before the start of the team's season, he was considered the first African-American head coach of the modern era of professional football.
Born December 23, 1936 in Washington DC, First Name William Vernell Wood.
- Security: 1960-71
- Height: 5-10; Weight: 190
- College: Southern Cal, 1957-1959
- Hall of Fame inductee professional football: 1989
- Team of the last ten years of the NFL: 1960s
- Associated Press All-Pro Team (chosen since 1940): 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968
- Other years selected in a first team composed exclusively of professionals: 1963
- Pro Bowl Selection (played since 1950): 1962, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970
- 50 years Packers Team: 1969
- The Packers All-Modern Era team: 1976
- Centennial Team Press Release: 1999