Bill Willis

  • 3 × Pro Bowl selection ( 1951-1953 )
  • 8 × All-Pro selection ( 1946-1953 )
  • NFL 1940s All- Decade Team
  • Cleveland Browns Honor Roll
  • NFL Champion (1950 )
  • 4 × AAFC Champion ( 1946-1949 )
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame (1977 )
  • College Football Hall of Fame (1971 )
  • Jersey number 99 suspended on College

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


Bill Willis was the son of Clement and Willana Willis in Columbus. In the age of four, his father died and he grew from then on with his grandparents. An avid athlete visited in his home town and the high school. Even in high school he played as a defensive line player and was selected in the national team from Ohio.

Playing career

College career

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

The dark-skinned players took after graduating from college studies no professional club in the NFL in 1945 and coach and sports director of the Kentucky State College. At the college played only dark-skinned student college football.

Professional career

In 1946, Willis received a roundabout way a professional contract with the Cleveland Browns. Willis had learned that his former college coach Paul Brown took over as coach for the Browns, who were settled in the newly formed AAFC. He wrote him a letter, but received no response. Disappointed, he wanted a contract with the Montreal Alouettes sign a team of the Canadian Football League, when Brown, who feared a negative public reaction to the new league when he takes a dark-skinned players under contract, chose him through a middleman for a trial invite. Bill Willis was able to convince it. He, his one weeks Obligated after him teammate Marion Motley in the AAFC, and the two NFL players Woody Strode and Kenny Washington were the only dark-skinned players, performing as a professional player under contract.

The Browns were the dominant team in the AAFC. In their ranks played many future All-Star player, as the quarterback Otto Graham, the player of the offensive line Lou Groza or end Mac Speedie. In 1946 she won the final against the New York Yankees with 14:9. 1947, the Yankees were in the final again defeated, this time with 14:3.

1948 Willis won his third championship, the Browns defeated the Buffalo Bills in the final with 49:7. Also in his fourth professional year won Willis and his team the AFL championship. When 21:7 victory of his Browns over the San Francisco 49ers in 1949, they remain a chance.

The AAFC had to stop the operation of gambling due to financial difficulties after the 1949 season. The Browns were included in the NFL. Your triumph continued in this league. In the NFL playoff in 1950 they defeated the Los Angeles Rams 30:28. 1951 then ended the winning streak of the Browns. For the first time they lost in a playoff. The Rams were able to prevail with 24:17 against the Browns. The NFL playoffs in 1952 and 1953 was lost. The Detroit Lions were able to prevail with 17:7, or 17:16 against the Browns.

After the 1953 season, Willis ended his career. In his eight years as a pro, he won five times the champion title and was runner-up three times. Willis was with 95 pounds of body weight actually too easy for his players position. To deceive the opponent of Willis, he was reported by Paul Brown at the AAFC at 102 kg body weight. His physical disadvantage, however, resembled Willis by his great speed off again.


Deke Willis played three times in the Pro Bowl, the final game of the best players of the season. He was elected to the All-Pro eight times. Willis will be honored by the Browns in Cleveland Browns Honor Roll. He is a member of the NFL 1940s All- Decade Team in the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His jersey number 99 is no longer assigned to his old college.

After the career

Bill Willis worked after his career in public service in various positions. Willis died of a stroke and is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens. He was married and had three sons..