In his 58th year of eligibility and less than five months after his death, former Green Bay Packers defensive back Bobby Dillon was selected for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He was part of a special slate of enshrinees consisting of 10 seniors (players who last played more than 25 years ago), three contributors (an individual other than a player or coach) and two coaches who were elected by a special blue-ribbon panel during a meeting at the Hall of Fame last week.
Despite having only one eye, Dillon was an interception machine during eight seasons with the Packers. As a rookie in 1952, he intercepted four passes. He followed that with nine interceptions in 1953, seven in 1954, nine in 1955, seven in 1956 and nine in 1957. When he retired following the 1959 season, he was second in NFL history with 52 career interceptions. That remains the franchise record, ahead of Hall of Famers Willie Wood (48) and Herb Adderley (39), modern-era Hall of Fame finalist LeRoy Butler (38) and likely Hall of Famer Charles Woodson (38).
Dillon was a third-round pick out of Texas. While he was named to Pro Bowls from 1956 through 1959, the Packers’ lack of success during his career – a woeful 33-61-2 record – and the overwhelming success that followed under Vince Lombardi pushed Dillon’s career to the back burner for Hall of Fame voters.
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“Willie Wood and Herb Adderley have made it and, if you go by the numbers, I have them both beat. That was a bad deal” Dillon once said.
More noteworthy than the accomplishments was his perseverance. Dillon lost his left eye in a childhood accident when he was 10 – it was replaced by a glass eye – and he had to beg his parents to let him play football. Finally, they let him, setting the wheels in motion for an incredible career.
“When the University of Texas offered me a scholarship, they asked my father to sign a waiver that if anything happened to me, either to the injured eye or the good eye, that we wouldn’t hold the university responsible, and he signed it,” Dillon told Packers Hall of Fame writer Art Daley.
On Thanksgiving 1953, he intercepted four passes against Detroit. Two of those came off Hall of Famer Bobby Layne.
“I will always remember that game because of the interceptions,” he said, “but also because near the end of the game, I t ore up my knee with less than 2 minutes left and I missed the last two games on the West Coast. Fortunately, I was able to come back and play six more seasons.”
Curly Lambeau-era star Lavvie Dilweg did not get the necessary votes. Dilweg is one of only two members of the all-1920s team not in the Hall of Fame.
Dillon is the 26th member of the Packers to be selected for the Hall of Fame. Butler could become the 27th when the Hall of Fame decides its modern-era inductees the night before this year’s Super Bowl.
The Centennial Class selections:
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Jimmy Johnson – 1989-1993 Dallas Cowboys, 1996-99 Miami Dolphins
*Steve Sabol, Administrator/President – 1964-2012 NFL Films
Paul Tagliabue, Commissioner – 1989-2006 National Football League
*George Young, Contributor/General Manager – 1968-1974 Baltimore Colts, 1975-78 Miami Dolphins, 1979-1997 New York Giants, 1998-2001 National Football League
Harold Carmichael, WR – 1971-1983 Philadelphia Eagles, 1984 Dallas Cowboys
Jim Covert, T – 1983-1990 Chicago Bears
*Bobby Dillon, S – 1952-59 Green Bay Packers
Cliff Harris, S – 1970-79 Dallas Cowboys
*Winston Hill, T – 1963-1976 New York Jets, 1977 Los Angeles Rams
*Alex Karras, DT – 1958-1962, 1964-1970 Detroit Lions
Donnie Shell, S – 1974-1987 Pittsburgh Steelers
*Duke Slater, T – 1922 Milwaukee Badgers, 1922-25 Rock Island Independents,1926-1931 Chicago Cardinals
*Mac Speedie, E – 1946-1952 Cleveland Browns [AAFC/NFL]
*Ed Sprinkle, DE/LB/E – 1944-1955 Chicago Bears