10TV in Columbus is reporting this evening that Hall-of-Fame Browns defensive lineman Bill Willis has passed away at the age of 86.
One of the first African-Americans to play professional football, Willis was with the Browns from 1946 through 1953, and was All-AAFC or All-Pro seven of those eight years.
A small defensive lineman (6'2", 210), Willis used his amazing reaction time and speed to dominate from the moment he stepped foot on the practice field for the Browns in 1946.Willis played "middle guard" in a five-man defensive front.
Browns head coach Paul Brown had become familiar with Willis at Ohio State, where Willis, unable to enlist in the Army due to varicose veins, was an All-American in 1944. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1971 and had his OSU jersey retired in a ceremony earlier this month (see photo).
Willis was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.