Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive back Willie Wood has died. He was 83.
Wood won five NFL championships with the Green Bay Packers under coach Vince Lombardi and made the first interception in Super Bowl history. He rose from undrafted rookie to play safety in eight Pro Bowls.
Longtime friend Robert Schmidt says Wood died of natural causes in Washington. Wood had suffered from advanced dementia for several years. The Associated Press reports that it was Wood's longtime friend and former teammate at Southern California, Robert Schmidt, who made the revealed the news.
Mark Murphy, Packers' president and CEO said, “The Green Bay Packers family lost a legend.” Murphy said, “Willie’s success story, rising from an undrafted rookie free agent to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, is an inspiration to generations of football fans. While his health challenges kept him from returning to Lambeau Field in recent years, his alumni weekend visits were cherished by both Willie and our fans.”
According to the Associated Press, Wood was named All-NFL first or second team honoree nine times and won five of six NFL championship games that he played in. The NFL pro was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989 and then into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1977.
Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker said, “He had an unbelievable football career which helped transform Green Bay, Wisconsin, into Titletown USA. Willie was a rare player who always fought to be a great teammate and achieve success.”
After playing football, Wood went on to become a coach, also becoming the first black head coach in football's modern era, joining the World Football League's Philadelphia Bell in 1975.