99 Warriors: No. 99 Bill Willis Kicks off Our List of the Greatest Buckeyes by Jersey Number

By Kevin Harrish on May 25, 2018 at 8:05 am
Bill Willis

We're counting down the days to kickoff with “99 Warriors,” the greatest Ohio State Buckeyes by jersey number, as voted on by the staff of Eleven Warriors.

No. 99 Bill Willis

DT Bill Willis

b. October 5, 1921 (Columbus, OH)

  • National Champion (1942)
  • All-American (1943, 1944)
  • Number retired at Ohio State

At 6-2, 215 lbs., Willis was small for a lineman and was initially expected to focus on track as a sprinter. Still, head coach Paul Brown chose Willis for his squad and he became a three-year starter and a dominant force in the trenches, helping the Buckeyes win their first-ever national championship in 1942.

Willis was named an All-American in 1943 and 1944, becoming the program's first African American to earn that honor, and had his number retired by Ohio State in 2007. He went on to become the first African-American starter in professional football, playing for the Cleveland Browns from 1946 to 1953, where he won an NFL championship.

Photo: Ohio State Dept. of Athletics

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