Willie Wood among 15 UDFAs who are in HOF


Willie Wood

Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame photograph

We all know that Ted Thompson is a pretty good evaluator of talent – it will be interesting if any of his finds in the undrafted ranks will stand the time like one who played with the Green Bay Packers 50 years ago.

You see, there was another pretty good evaluator of talent who spent some time managing and coaching the Packers – a guy by the name of Vince Lombardi.

While Thompson has brought in guys like Sam Shields and Dezman Moses as undrafted free agents, Lombardi also brought in a couple of guys who also made a difference with his teams.

One of them was a guy by the name of Willie Wood who went on to a Hall of Fame career. The other was another defender by the name of Emlen Tunnell. Though Tunnell played the bulk of his career with the New York Giants, he spent the last three seasons in Green Bay with Lombardi.

But it was Wood who was a major contributor to the Packers and their championship teams of the 1960s. Playing across the field from another Hall-of-Famer, Herb Adderley, Wood not only locked down receivers in the defensive backfield, but was also a punt returner extraordinaire. Heck, he even kicked an extra point in 1964 and tried a field goal – it was unsuccessful.

As a defender, Wood only returned two of his 48 interceptions during his 12-year career for touchdowns, but he returned those interceptions for a total of 699 yards.

As a punt returner, he fielded 187 kicks in 166 games, returning them 1,391 yards. He also had two returns for touchdowns and a 7.4 yard average per return. His best season was 1962 when he had a 16.1 yard average – it was also the season when he posted those two returns for touchdowns, the longest being 72 yards.

Wood was one of, if not the best free safeties in all of football during the 1960s. He was named to the All-NFL nine years straight and to the Pro-Bowl eight times. He was a champion – in all, he played in six championship games with the Packers and was a member of the winning team in all except the first when the Packers lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1960.

He also had the distinction of playing in the first two Super Bowls against the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders. In the first Super Bowl, it was his interception in the second half that helped seal the game for Green Bay. He also returned five punts in Super Bowl II. His 31-yard return was the longest in the game’s history until it was broken by Darrell Green, who returned a 34-yarders in Super Bowl XVIII.

Wood was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989

As published in wikipedia, here are Wood’s career highlights:

Career highlights and awards

Here are his career statistics as published on pro-football-reference.com:

Here are all of the undrafted free agents who have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of fame:

1946 (AAFC)Frank GatskiCCleveland Browns
1946 (AAFC)Lou GrozaT-KCleveland Browns
1946 (AAFC)Marion MotleyFBCleveland browns
1946 (AAFC)Bill WillisMGCleveland Browns
1948 (AAFC)Joe PerryFBSan Francisco 49ers
1948Emlen TunnellSNew York Giants
1951Jack ButlerCBPittsburgh Steelers
1952Dick “Night Train” LaneCBLos Angeles Rams
1960Willie WoodSGreen Bay Packers
1963Willie BrownCBHouston Oilers
1966Emmitt ThomasCBKansas City Chiefs
1967Larry LittleGSan Diego Chargers
1970Jim LangerCCleveland Browns
1984Warren MoonQBHouston Oilers
1990John RandleDTMinnesota Vikings