Browns Hall of Fame guard Willis, 86, passes away

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At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Willis was small by pro football standards in 1946, yet he performed in a class by himself, particularly on defense for the Cleveland Browns.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- An Ohio State spokesman says Hall of Fame football player Bill Willis died Tuesday evening.

Willis played guard with the NFL's Cleveland Browns and also was Ohio State's first black football All-American. He was 86.

School spokesman Steve Snapp says Willis had been battling a short illness. Snapp was notified of the death by one of Willis' sons.

Willis was an All-American in 1943 and 1944. He had his No. 99 jersey retired at halftime of the Wisconsin-Ohio State game on November 3rd at Ohio Stadium.

Willis had a distinguished career with the Browns from 1946 to 1953, where he helped to break the color barrier in professional football.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

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