Green Bay Packers in the Hall of Fame: Willie Davis

(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) /

Born in Lisbon (Louisiana, not Portugal) in 1934, William Delford “Willie” Davis played for the Green Bay Packers from 1960 to 1969.

In what seems to be an ongoing mantra in this series of Green Bay Packers inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, although Davis ended up in both the Packers and the NFL Hall of Fame, he wasn’t selected until the 15th round of the 1956 draft – pick #181 overall.

But it was the Cleveland Browns, not the Packers, who selected Davis. And they utilized him as an offensive lineman before trading him to Green Bay.

To say Davis ended up exceeding expectations is putting it mildly.

Moved to defensive end by Packers coach Vince Lombardi, Davis especially excelled at causing and recovering fumbles. In his career, he pounced on 21 fumbles (a team record, one more than both Ray Nitschke and Johnnie Gray), returning one for a scoop-6.

Perhaps even more valuable to the Packers was Davis’ expertise as a sack artist. Precisely how many sacks Davis got in his career is unknown, however, as that statistic wasn’t kept until 1981. But it’s quite likely that he is the real (but not “certified”) Packers all-time sack leader.

In fact, Davis has gone on record stating that he believes this to be the case, saying that he averaged in the teens in sacks for 10 seasons, with 25 one season. 

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Researchers claim Davis tallied upwards of 100 sacks in his career with Green Bay, quite possibly 120 or more.

The official team record for sacks belongs to Clay Matthews, who has amassed 81 sacks in his nine years with the team.

For those wondering (those not wondering can skip this sentence), Reggie White ended up with 68.5 sacks in six seasons with Green Bay.

Besides sacks and fumble recoveries, Davis tallied two interceptions in his career, and two of his sacks were also safeties. He shares the team record for safeties with Tim Harris, who had both of his in the same season.

Davis played on five championship Packers teams, two of those being the victors in the first two Super Bowls. He also ended up with five Pro Bowl appearances, and five first-team selections as an All-Pro.

Not only that, Davis was also selected as a virtual member of the 1960s all-decade team.

Willie Davis was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981, the year sacks started to be officially tallied.

One would think that tapes, or “box scores,” or at least play-by-play accounts of all the games Davis played in would be available, so that an accurate tally of Davis’ career sack count could be made.

If it’s true that he averaged “in the teens” in sacks for 10 years, that would mean a minimum of 130 sacks, putting Davis way ahead Matthews in the team sack record totals.

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And so, if an accurate sack count for Davis were to be compiled, and subsequently accepted as official, it would seem to set a new team sack record that would be unlikely to ever be broken.

Not bad for a guy selected in the 15th round of the draft, and initially viewed as an offensive line prospect.