Willie Davis, a Hall of Fame defensive lineman that starred on five world championship teams for the Packers during the 1960s, has passed away at the age of 85, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced on Wednesday.
"It is with great sadness that the entire Pro Football Hall of Fame mourns the passing of Willie Davis," Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker said in a statement. "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 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."
After playing for legendary coach Eddie Robinson at Grambling State, Davis was selected by Paul Brown and the Cleveland Browns in the 15th round of the 1958 draft. Davis spent two years in Cleveland before Vince Lombardi traded for him in 1960. The defensive end started immediately in Green Bay, helping the Packers win back-to-back championships in 1961 and '62. An All-Pro for the first time in 1962, Davis earned five consecutive Pro Bowl selections from 1963-67 that also included four straight All-Pro selections. During that span, Davis, who played in 138 consecutive games during his 10 years with the Packers, helped Green Bay win three straight world championships that included victories in Super Bowls I and II. He served as one of the team's captains during the Packers' three-peat, a feat that has yet to be matched by another team.
During a 2006 interview with NFL Films, Davis described the mindset he and his defensive teammates had during the first half of the 1966 season, when Green Bay's defense -- a group that included five Hall of Famers in Davis, linebackers Dave Robinson and Ray Nitschke, and defensive backs Herb Adderley and Willie Wood -- kept the Packers in the win column despite some struggles from their offense.
"We came together as a group and said, 'You know, our offense might struggle, but one of the things that we're doing to do, we're going to keep the score such that we're always going to be in the game,'" Davis recalled. "We really believed, in the final analysis, that we're going to win the game, if we have to."
Davis, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981, received the Career Achievement Award from the NFL Alumni in 1987. He was named one of the NFL's top 100 football players by NFL Films in 2010.
Davis is the third fabled member of the Packers' 1960s dynasty that has died over the past calendar year. Wood, regarded as one of the greatest safeties of his era,at the age of 83. Bart Starr, the quarterback of those Packers teams and the MVP of the first two Super Bowls, at the age of 85.