87 days to football: Willie Davis

With 87 days left until the start of the NFL season, our countdown to the big day, Thursday, Sept. 4, when the Green Bay Packers travel to Seattle to take on the Super Bowl Champion Seahawks will focus on the the number that represents the number of days remaining … today it’s #87.

We highly recommend “Packers by the Numbers: Jersey Numbers and the Players Who Wore Them,” by John Maxymuk. The book, which chronicles every Packers jersey number was published in 2003, so it may be a bit incomplete, but it provides a strong background of information about Packers players and their jersey numbers up to that point in time.

Yesterday, we focused on Hall of Famer Ron Kramer, who was, without question, the most popular and productive player to wear #88.

Today, we highlight the best Packers player ever to wear #87 – defensive end Willie Davis.

There have been several players since 1950 who have worn the number well. We could have considered Robert Brooks, Alden Roche, or even Jordy Nelson, right?

Those three were very good players for the Packers, but nobody had more of an impact on the team and the league than Mr. Davis.

But like yesterday’s number, there were those failures who wore #87, such as Corn RedickJohn Thompson, and Bill Larson. No, I had never heard of those guys either.

On the flip side, there have been others, such as Brooks, Roche and Nelson, who have worn #87 who had pretty decent careers with the Packers.

Who can forget how Brooks came out of nowhere to gain the starting wide receiver position and not only refine the Lambeau Leap, but helped lead the Packers to two straight Super Bowls? And how about Nelson, who didn’t even start in his first couple of years, but jumped to the forefront in Super Bowl XLV. Had he not had a couple of drops in that game in which he caught nearl 150 yards in passes, he could have easily been named the Super Bowl MVP.

See the list below to see the players who have worn #87 over the past 50 years … most of these guys you may not remember – no, neither do I.

But we do remember Davis. His cat-like quickness and powerful presence on the defensive line helped to solidify Phil Bengston’s defense during the 1960s. Clearly he was one of the best of his time and could have succeeded in any era

Willie Davis

Willie Davis

Here is how Maxymuk describes Davis:

“…Willie Davis – one of the greatest defensive ends ever to play the game. Davis had starred for Eddie Robinson at Grambling University and was one of the first of many NFL stars to emerge from that small black college in Louisiana. He was a 15th-round draft choice of the Cleveland Browns where another legendary coach, Paul Brown, switched him back and forth from offense to defense before finally trading him to Vince Lombardi for end A.D. Williams in 1960.

Lombardi put him at left defensive end, where Willie’s great speed, strength, quickness and agility made him a five-time All Pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection in the 1960s.

He had a knack for making the big play, and still is the career team leader in fumble recoveries with 21. He was durable, never missing a game in 12 years with the Browns and Packers, and had the effervescent personality of a natural leader, known to his teammates as “Dr. Feelgood.” He was elected to the Packers Hall of Fame in 1975 and to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981.

In retirement he used all of those qualities to become an even bigger success in the business world. He often would say that whenever he went into a sales meeting, the words and lessons of Lombardi went with him. He became the second black member of the Packers Board of Directors in 1994.”

Davis will long be remembered as one of the best in Green Bay.

Here are his career statistics as provided by Pro Football Reference:


Provided by Pro Football Reference, here is the list of players over the past 50 years who have worn #87.

From To AV
Marty Amsler 1970 1970 3
Nate Borden 1955 1959 0
Robert Brooks 1992 1998 44
Bobby Collins 2001 2001 0
Willie Davis 1960 1969 94
Ryan Krause 2007 2007 0
Bill Larson 1980 1980 0
Bob Mann 1952 1954 0
David Martin 2002 2006 4
Jordy Nelson 2008 2013 41
Corn Redick 1987 1987 0
Alden Roche 1971 1976 33
Walter Stanley 1985 1988 14
John Thompson 1981 1982 0
Walter Tullis 1979 1979 2
Clarence Weathers 1990 1991 3

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