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Tue, 07.24.1934

Willie Davis, Football Player and Businessman born

Willie Davis

*Willie Davis was born on this date in 1934.  He was a Black professional football player and businessman.  

William Delford Davis was from Lisbon, La. He was 8 when his parents separated, and he moved with his mother and two younger siblings to Texarkana, Ark. His mother was a cook at a country club.  Young Davis earned a scholarship to Historically Black Grambling State University in Louisiana, where he played offensive tackle and defensive end.  His coach was Eddie Robinson, who prepared dozens of players for pro careers.  

After graduating in 1956, Mr. Davis served two years in the Army before joining the Browns in 1958. While playing in the NFL, he also received a Master of Business Administration degree in 1968 from the University of Chicago. 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.  Davis played at various positions on offense and defense for the Browns before being traded to the Green Bay Packers in 1960.  Davis wore number 87 during his career with the Packers, where he was moved to a permanent position at defensive end.

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.  As a white player from Georgia, Bill Curry had not been on an integrated team until he joined the Packers in 1965.  Mr. Davis “didn’t just help me to play in the NFL for ten years,” Curry said, “he changed my life because I was never able to look at another human being in the same way I had.”  Davis played in an era when neither tackles nor sacks were official statistics. However, John Turney, a Professional Football Researchers Association member, 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.  

Davis said, "I would think I would have to be the team's all-time leader in sacks. I played ten years, and I averaged in the 'teens' in sacks for those ten years. I had 25 one season. [Paul] Hornung just reminded me of that the other day."  Davis earned All-Pro honors five 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 Packers Board of Directors.  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 the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.

He served on 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'sInc., Sara Lee (1983–2020), Schlitz Brewing, and WICOR Inc.  He was president of All-Pro Broadcasting and operator of radio stations KHTI, KACE, KATY-FM, WLDB-FM, WLUM-FM, and WZTI since 1976.  Davis' son is actor Duane Davis. He also had a daughter, Lori Davis. Davis' grandson, Wyatt Davis, is an All-American guard at Ohio State University.  After being hospitalized for a month due to kidney failure, Davis died on April 15, 2020, at 85.   

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