Bill Willis (football player)

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Bill Willis
Middle Guard ,
Jersey numbers:
30, 60
born October 5, 1921 in Columbus , Ohio
died on November 27, 2007 , ibid
Career information
Active : 1946 - 1953
College : Ohio State University
Career statistics
Playing times     8th
Games     99
Interceptions     1
Stats at
Stats at
Career highlights and awards
Pro Football Hall of Fame
College Football Hall of Fame

William Karnet Willis (born October 5, 1921 in Columbus , Ohio , USA ; † November 27, 2007 , ibid), nickname : Deke was an American football player and coach. He played on the defensive line and on the offensive line with the Cleveland Browns in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) and in the National Football League (NFL).


Bill Willis was born in Columbus to Clement and Willana Willis. His father died when he was four years old and he grew up with his grandparents. The enthusiastic athlete also attended high school in his hometown . Already there he played as a defensive line player and was elected to the Ohio team.

Player career

College career

From 1941 to 1944 Bill Willis studied at Ohio State University . From 1942 he played with the Buckeyes on the position of a tackle. In the same year he won the national college football championship with his team coached by Paul Brown . In 1943 and 1944 he was elected All-American . In his senior year, he was also nominated for the College All-Star Game. His team had to admit defeat in the game, the Chicago Bears with 24:21.

The black player found no professional club in the NFL after graduating from college, and in 1945 he became the coach and sports director of Kentucky State College . Only African American students played college football at the college .

Professional career

In 1946, Willis indirectly received a professional contract with the Cleveland Browns. Willis had learned that his former college coach Paul Brown had taken over the coaching position with the Browns, which were based in the newly formed AAFC. He wrote him a letter but got no response. He was disappointed about to sign a contract with the Montreal Alouettes , a Canadian Football League team , when Brown, who feared a negative public reaction for the new league if he signs an African-American player, decided to put him through an intermediary Invite trial training. Bill Willis was able to convince. He, his teammate Marion Motley , who signed up for the AAFC a week after him , and the two NFL players Woody Strode and Kenny Washington were the only African American players who were under contract as professional players.

The Browns were the dominant team in the AAFC. Many later all-star players played in their ranks , such as quarterback Otto Graham , offensive line player Lou Groza or End Mac Speedie . In 1946 they won the final against the New York Yankees 14: 9. In 1947 the Yankees were defeated again in the final, this time 14: 3.

In 1948 Willis won his third league title, the Browns defeated the Buffalo Bills 49-7 in the final . Also in his fourth year as a professional, Willis and his team won the AFL championship title. In the 21: 7 victory of his Browns over the San Francisco 49ers in 1949, they have no chance.

The AAFC had to cease playing due to financial difficulties after the 1949 season. The Browns were inducted into the NFL. Their triumphant advance continued in this league. In the 1950 NFL final, they beat the Los Angeles Rams by 30:28. In 1951 the Browns' winning streak ended. For the first time they lost in a final. The Rams were able to prevail against the Browns with 24:17. The 1952 and 1953 NFL finals were also lost. The Detroit Lions were able to prevail against the Browns with 17: 7 and 17:16 respectively.

After the 1953 season, Willis ended his career. In his eight years as a professional he won the championship title five times and was runner-up three times. With a body weight of 95 kilograms, Willis was actually too light for his player position. To deceive Willis's opponents, Paul Brown reported him to the AAFC as weighing 102 kg. However, Willis compensated for his physical disadvantage with his great speed.


Deke Willis played three times in the Pro Bowl , the final game of the best players of the season. He was voted All-Pro eight times . Willis is honored by the Browns in the Cleveland Browns Honor Roll. He is a member of the NFL 1940s All-Decade Team , the Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame , the College Football Hall of Fame, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame . His jersey number 99 is no longer awarded at his old college. in Delaware , Ohio, a high school was named after Bill Willis.

After the career

Bill Willis worked in a variety of positions after his public service career. He died of a stroke and was buried in the Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens in his hometown . He was married and the father of three sons. .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Annual statistics of the Browns 1946
  2. AAFC final 1946 - statistics
  3. ^ Annual statistics of the Browns, 1947
  4. ^ AAFC final 1947 - statistics
  5. ^ Annual statistics of the Browns 1948
  6. AAFC final 1948 - statistics
  7. ^ Annual statistics of the Browns 1949
  8. ^ AAFC Final 1949 - Statistics
  9. Annual statistics of the Browns 1950
  10. ^ NFL final 1950 statistics
  11. ^ Annual statistics of the Browns 1951
  12. ^ 1951 NFL final - statistics
  13. ^ Annual statistics of the Browns 1952
  14. 1952 NFL final - statistics
  15. ^ Annual statistics of the Browns 1953
  16. 1953 NFL final - statistics
  17. ^ William K. Willis High School
  18. Bill Willis's grave in the Find a Grave database