NFL Hall Of Famer Willie Wood Dies

Willie Wood, the first African-American quarterback to play at USC and the Pacific Coast Conference, died Monday. He was 83.

Wood went undrafted in 1960 but signed with the Green Bay Packers and played safety. He was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, five-time first team All-Pro, two-time Super Bowl champion; played on five NFL championship teams and member of the 1960’s NFL All-Decade Team.

He intercepted 48 passes in 166 games (all with Green Bay) and held the NFL record for most consecutive starts by a safety. He led the NFL with a 13.3 yards per punt return average in 1964.

In 1989, he was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame. In 1980, Wood became the first African-American head coach in the Canadian Football League with the Toronto Argonauts.

Wood battled shoulder injuries in 1958-59 at USC. Besides playing QB, he even kicked a field goal in 1959.

6 thoughts on “NFL Hall Of Famer Willie Wood Dies

  1. Thank you, Scott. USC was a leader in creating opportunities for African American athletes. And as we know, African Americans make up 80% of the rosters in college and in the NFL. We haven’t had an African American QB start at USC since the great Rodney Peete. We all know there are so many great African American QBs at the college level, as well as in the NFL. Bryce Young just passed on us. Jalen Greene came in as a QB from JSerra and was moved to wide receiver. And now, we have missed on all the QBs we have offered in the 2020 cycle.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Trojans were the only major program to recruit Rodney Peete as a QB. Great rivalry against ucla and Aikman at that time. The ’88 game was a classic, with over 100,000 attending that day in the Rose Bowl.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Joan, that is not quite true. UCLA had Kenney Washington and Jackie Robinson long before USC got the message. As a USC student I pulled for UCLA because they were more progressive than USC on that issue. Plus USC would not play Willie over the white quarterback until the LA Times shamed and criticised us for not playing Willie, who was obviously more effective than the white quarterback. I asked Lou Byrd , who was playing guard at the time if he thought Willie was better. Lou Byrd replied by saying that “well we do seem to have more pep and energy when Willie is calling signals”. He was truly a triple threat. We were very slow on this issue. Not only this concerning minority students but in general. You could hardly find a black student with a microscope. We were so bad on the issue of race. Plus I suggested to the vice president of student affairs that we should recruit more black students. His reply”What are we going to do with them when they come”. My reply to him was”we are not talking about cattle and that was a bigoted statement”. No we have been sorry on this issue.


  2. That’59 team had some really athletic players, they also were 60 min men…played offense and defense. Saw all the home games that yr ,I was 16 and my brother came too at 12. Great yr compared to PCC penalty yrs . Willie Wood was injured part of the season at the end ,which hurt the team,he was a triple threat type q/b. Sure had a great life in football,hope the other parts were as blessed.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Remember the 1987 game where the ruins were up 10-0 at the end of the first half and Rodney Peete had a pass intercepted by Eric Turner at the goal line? Rodney refused to give up and ran 85 yards and brought down the speedy Turner just short of the goal line as time expired? That ended up saving the game as the Trojans roared back in the second half and Eric Affholter made his famous juggling catch to win the game 17-13.

    That was one of the greatest athletic feats I have ever witnessed.

    Liked by 1 person

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