On July 12, 1960, Green Bay sent reserve tight end A.D. Williams to Cleveland for Davis, and Lombardi commented with an understatement, “If Davis turns out as good as Quinlan, we’ll be real happy.” Willie started every game at left defensive end for the Packers in the 1960s and accumulated over 100 sacks, a team record, according to the research of Webster and Turney. Five times his sack total was in double digits and seven times he led the team. Lombardi later said of Davis, “You look for speed, agility and size. You may get two of these qualities in one man, and when you have three, you have a great player. In Willie Davis, we have a great one. For a big man, he has excellent agility and he has great sincerity and determination.”
Compared to other defensive ends even at the time, Davis was not big. In fact, left linebacker Dave Robinson was the same size as Davis, and watching those two great Hall of Famers, it’s easy to imagine them swapping positions and being just as successful. Forrest Gregg described Davis to Chuck Johnson for Greatest Packers of Them All,” He’s got great power in his hands and arms and shoulders. I’d guess he has the perfect build for a defensive end. Most of his weight is in his upper torso, and yet he has the legs of a sprinter. He’s one of the greatest pursuit men the game has ever known, he meets a play well, he rushes the passer unmercifully. How much more is there?”
The burst Davis added to the defensive line helped Henry Jordan to become an excellent inside rush man himself. The biggest thing about Davis was his motor; he never quit on a play, somewhat analogous to J.J. Watt today. Davis was a sideline-to-sideline defensive end with great lateral movement. Lombardi favored quickness and pursuit in his defense, and he got all that and more in Willie. He also got an upbeat, vocal team leader both on the field and in the locker room. Davis had the respect of every player on the team and could always be counted on to do the right thing for the team and to inspire his teammates as the defensive captain. Willie subsequently parlayed his intelligence and leadership into earning an MBA from the University of Chicago and became a multimillionaire businessman in his retirement.
(Adapted from Green Bay Gold)
A selection of Willie Davis custom cards.