Named for the Hall of Fame safety who played for the Green Bay Packers from 1960-71, Willie Wood Way is the block of N Street NW between First Street NW and New York Avenue NW in DC.
William Vernell Wood (b. 1936) and his family lived on this stretch of road in the 1950s, and Wood played football at the neighborhood boys club before he went on to become a star player at Armstrong High School and a quarterback at USC.
The Trojans were a good fit for Willie (sorry, had to say it). Willie Wood was the first black quarterback in the history of the Pac 12 conference and, though he was not drafted by the NFL – which wouldn’t be ready for its first black quarterback until James Harrison suited up for the Buffalo Bills in 1969 – Wood tried out for the Packers and was signed as a free agent in 1960.
Willie Wood helped the Packers win Super Bowls I and II, and he holds the record for most consecutive starts by a safety in NFL history. He was also the first black coach in the Canadian Football League.
Wood is truly a football legend, and the street naming in his hometown is a nice gesture for a man known for getting to the ball first. But much like the oft-replaced Stoner Road and Middlesex Road street signs from heydayjoe’s youth, the Willie Wood Way sign is destined to be a decorative trophy in the room of some sticky-fingered teen.