The late Bobby Dillon, a member of the Texas Athletics Hall of Honor who earned All-American accolades in football and also lettered in track & field, has been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of its Centennial Class.
Congrats to Bobby Dillon, a Longhorn Legend from the early days who helped lay the foundation for the “Pride and Winning Tradition of the Texas Longhorns”— John Bianco (@UT_Bianco) January 15, 2020
Dillon made 4️⃣ straight NFL Pro Bowls from 1956-59, a UT-best that stood until @Earl_Thomas made 5 in a row (2012-16) ⬇️ https://t.co/7GGNZBdrE3
As part of the National Football League’s 100th season, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced last year that its 2020 class would include not only its normal five-member “modern era” player class (which will be announced
later this week on February 1), but also 15 “Centennial Class” inductees. Dillon will be part of that Centennial Class, which was revealed in full this morning and includes ten Seniors (former players whose last pro season was more than 25 years ago), three contributors, and two coaches.
Fellow Longhorn legend Tommy Nobis, the 1965 Outland Trophy winner who played linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons from 1966 to 1976 and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 1960s All-Decade Team, was among the 20 Senior finalists considered for the Centennial Class, but he was not one of the ten who were ultimately chosen for induction.
Dillon, who passed away at age 89 in August of last year due to complications from dementia, was a native of Temple, Texas who lost his left eye at age 10 following a pair of painful accidents that badly damaged his sight in that eye. But despite only possessing one good eye and wearing a glass eye where his left one had been, he was an impact player in the defensive secondary throughout his football career.
He was a three-year letterman in football at Texas (1949-1951) and also earned two letters in track and field (1950-1951). Listed at 6’1” and 180 pounds as a senior in 1951, he was named a team captain and earned All-Southwest Conference and All-American honors for his play at defensive back that season. He finished his UT career with 13 interceptions, which currently ties him with four other players for fifth on the program’s all-time list. He also ranks fourth all-time in program history with 190 interception return yards, a figure that stood as a school record until it was broken by Chris Carter in the mid-90s.
Dillon was picked by the Green Bay Packers in the 3rd round of the 1952 NFL Draft and was the 28th overall player selected. He would start at safety for eight seasons with the Packers, and during his career he recorded 52 interceptions, was named to four Pro Bowls, and was named a First Team All-Pro four times (1954-55, 1957-58).
Despite his efforts, the Packers were not a good team for most of his career, and in his first seven seasons they compiled a record of 26-56-2 and never finished higher than 3rd in their division. Dillon intended to retire following the 1958 season, one in which the Packers finished with a record of 1-10-1 despite having no less than seven future Hall of Famers on their roster, but newly-hired head coach Vince Lombardi considered him “irreplaceable” and convinced him to return for the 1959 season.
In their first season under Lombardi the Packers improved to 7-5 and finished with their highest win total since 1944, but an injury late in the season would sideline Dillon for two games and cost him his starting position, and he retired following that 1959 season at the age of 29. At the time of his retirement his 52 career interceptions were the second-most in NFL history, and that figure remains a Packers team record 60 years later. Worth noting: Willie Wood, who is 2nd on the Packers’ all-time interceptions list with 48, played in 72 more career games than Dillon.
When he is officially inducted later this year, Dillon will become the fifth Texas Longhorn to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and the third as a player.
Quarterback Bobby Layne, a consensus All-American as a senior at Texas in 1947 who went on to play for three NFL championship teams and make 6 Pro Bowls during a 15-year pro career, was inducted in 1967.
Running back Earl Campbell, who became the first Longhorn to win the Heisman Trophy in 1977 and went on to make five Pro Bowls with the Houston Oilers, was inducted in 1991.
Tom Landry, a Longhorn defensive back and team captain in 1948 who would go on to coach the Dallas Cowboys for their first 29 seasons (1960-1988) and lead them to two Super Bowl wins, was inducted as a coach in 1990.
And Tex Schramm, a 1947 UT graduate who served as general manager of the Dallas Cowboys for the franchise’s first 29 seasons, was inducted as a contributor in 1991.
Dillon is also the third member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame to have been born in Temple, joining Sammy Baugh (inducted in 1963) and “Mean” Joe Greene (inducted in 1987). He was previously inducted into the Texas Athletics Hall of Honor in 1972, the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1974, and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.