William Vernell Wood Sr. (born December 23, 1936) is a former American football safety for the Green Bay Packers in the National Football League (NFL), and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
|Born:||December 23, 1936|
|Height:||5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)|
|Weight:||190 lb (86 kg)|
|High school:||Washington (DC) Armstrong|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
After graduating from Armstrong High School in Washington, D.C. in 1956, Wood went west and played college football in southern California, playing his freshman year at Coalinga Junior College and was a junior college All-American.
He transferred to the University of Southern California in Los Angeles in 1957 and played for the Trojans under first-year head coach Don Clark. While there he was the first African American quarterback in the history of the Pacific Coast Conference and its successor AAWU, now the Pac-12 Conference.
Wood was not selected in the 1960 NFL draft, and wrote a letter to head coach Vince Lombardi to request a tryout; the Packers signed him as a rookie free agent in 1960. After a few days with the quarterbacks, he requested a switch to defense and was recast as a free safety, and was a starter in the season. He started until his retirement in 1971.
Wood won All-NFL honors nine times in a nine-year stretch from 1962 through the 1971 season, participated in the Pro Bowl eight times, and played in six NFL championship games, winning all except the first in 1960.
Wood was the starting free safety for the Packers in Super Bowl I against the Kansas City Chiefs and Super Bowl II against the Oakland Raiders. In Super Bowl I, he recorded a key interception that helped the Packers put the game away in the second half. In Super Bowl II, he returned five punts for 35 yards, including a 31-yard return that stood as the record for longest punt return in a Super Bowl until Darrell Green's 34-yard return in Super Bowl XVIII. He led the NFL in interceptions and punt return yards in 1962.
Wood finished his 12 NFL seasons with 48 interceptions, which he returned for 699 yards and two touchdowns. He also gained 1,391 yards and scored two touchdowns on 187 punt returns. He holds the record for the most consecutive starts by a safety in NFL history.
After retiring as a player in January 1972, Wood became the defensive backs coach for the San Diego Chargers. In 1975, he was the defensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Bell of the World Football League (WFL) and became the first African-American head coach in professional football of the modern era in late July, days before the first game of the season. The Bell's season lasted only eleven games when the league folded in October.
Wood was later an assistant coach for the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League under Forrest Gregg, a Packer teammate. When Gregg left after the 1979 season for the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL, Wood became the first black head coach in the CFL, but after an 0–10 start in 1981, he was fired.
His son, Willie Wood, Jr., played for (1992–1993) and later coached the Indiana Firebirds in the Arena Football League, after coaching at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C. Wood Jr. also served as the wide receiver/defensive backs coach and special teams coordinator for the Cleveland Gladiators of the Arena Football League.
In March 2012, a block of N Street NW in D.C. () was named "Willie Wood Way."
Wood was also a punt returner throughout his career, averaging 7.4 yards per return in 187 attempts and scoring two touchdowns, both in 1961. He also had three kickoff returns for 20 yards (6.7 average) and kicked twice, missing a field goal and converting an extra point.
December 23 is the 357th day of the year (358th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are eight days remaining until the end of the year.Willie Wood
Willie Wood may refer to:
Willie Wood (bowler) (born 1938), Scottish bowls player
Willie Wood (American football) (born 1936), American football player
Willie Wood (golfer) (born 1960), American golfer
Willie Wood (footballer), who scored for Bury F.C. in the 1900 and 1903 FA Cup Final
Willie Wood—championships, awards, and honors