Bill Willis (died in 1940)

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William Karnet Willis (October 5, 1921 – November 27, 2007) was an American football defensive lineman who played eight seasons for the Cleveland Browns in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) and the National Football League (NFL). Known for his quickness and strength despite his small stature, Willis was one of the dominant defensive football players of the 1940s and early 1950s. He was named an All-Pro in every season of his career and reached the NFL's Pro Bowl in three of the four seasons he played in the league. His techniques and style of play were emulated by other teams, and his versatility as a pass-rusher and coverage man influenced the development of the modern-day linebacker position. When he retired, Cleveland coach Paul Brown called him "one of the outstanding linemen in the history of professional football". Willis was also one of the first African Americans to play professional football in the modern era, signing with the Browns a year before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers.Born in Columbus, Ohio, Willis attended Ohio State University, where he joined the track and football teams. He was part of a Buckeyes football team that won the school's first national championship in 1942. After graduating in 1944, Willis heard about a new AAFC club in Cleveland led by his old Ohio State coach, Paul Brown. He got a tryout and made the team. With Willis as a defensive anchor, the Browns won all four AAFC championships between 1946 and 1949, when the league dissolved. The Browns were then absorbed by the NFL, where Willis continued to succeed. Cleveland won the NFL championship in 1950.Willis retired in 1954 to focus on helping troubled youth, first as Cleveland's assistant recreation commissioner and later as the chairman of the Ohio Youth Commission. He remained in that position until his death in 2007. Willis was inducted into both the College Football Hall of Fame and Pro Football Hall of Fame in the 1970s. He married Odessa Porter and had three sons, William, Jr., Clement and Dan.

Source: dbpedia

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