Hall of Fame safety, Packers legend Willie Wood dies at 83

Former Green Bay Packers safety and Pro Football Hall of Famer Willie Wood died Monday at the age of 83, the team announced.

The Packers said in a press release that Wood "had been confined to assisted living facilities for roughly 13 years and had suffered from advanced stage dementia for close to a decade or more."

"The Green Bay Packers Family lost a legend today with the passing of Willie Wood," Packers president/CEO Mark Murphy said in a statement. "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. We extend our deepest condolences to Willie's family and friends."

A five-time first-team All-Pro and eight-time Pro Bowler, Wood was a starting safety on all five of Vince Lombardi's championship teams in Green Bay in the 1960s (1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967). Wood also played in the first two Super Bowls, both of which were Packers victories.

In Super Bowl I, Wood logged an interception of Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson and a 50-yard return early in the second half to help salt away Green Bay's 35-10 victory over Kansas City.

An undrafted athlete out of USC, where he was the first African-American quarterback in Pacific Coast (now Pac-12) Conference history, Wood joined Green Bay following a tryout in 1960, Lombardi's second year at the helm.

Over the next 12 seasons, Wood played in all 166 regular-season games for which he was available, starting in the defensive backfield in 150 of them. The safety led the league in interceptions (9) in 1962. Wood's 48 career picks are the second-most in Packers history.

The Packers star was also well regarded as a return man. Wood's 31-yard punt return in Super Bowl II against the Oakland Raiders stood as the longest punt return in Super Bowl history for 16 years. His 1,391 punt return yards are the most in Packers history.

Wood retired as a player following the 1971 season, but didn't leave the sport of football. He immediately joined the San Diego Chargers as an assistant, and Bell later spent time with the World Football League's Philadelphia Bell and the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts as an assistant. He was hired by Toronto as the CFL's first black coach in 1980.

A member of the PackersHall of Fame and the 1960s All-Decade Team, Wood was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989.

"The game has lost a true legend with the passing of Willie Wood," Hall of Fame president/CEO David Baker said in a statement. "He had an unbelievable football career which helped transform Green Bay, Wisconsin into Titletown U.S.A. Willie was a rare player who always fought to be a great teammate and achieve success. He entered the league as an undrafted free agent and became one of the greatest to ever play the game. The Hall of Fame will forever keep his legacy alive to serve as an inspiration to future generations."

Wood is one of justĀ 17 undrafted players enshrined in Canton.

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