Does Norm Willey Belong In the NFL Hall of Fame?

Jeremy KaufmanSenior Analyst INovember 3, 2008

In the NFL, sacks are arguably one of the most vital and sought after statistics in the game. If a defensive player can accumulate just one sack a game, that player will usually be recognized as a perennial All Star and eventually be enshrined in the Hall of Fame if their career lasts long enough to qualify. 

If a player accumulated two, or possibly even three sacks a game, that player is said to have had an amazing game, and they will probably go on to be recognized as the GMC Defensive Player of the Week.

However, what if I was to say that there was an old time player who accumulated as many sacks, if not more, on a daily basis? In fact, this player, in one game, sacked the opposing team’s quarterback 17 times. That’s right, 17 times. His name is Norm Willey, and he is arguably one of the greatest defensive ends of all time.

So, ever heard of him? Probably not. That’s because he isn’t in the Hall of Fame. In fact, his unfathomable collection of sacks aren’t even in the stat book. That’s because he played in the 50’s, in a time when sacks were not yet an official statistic. However, ample proof exists, through the personal accounts of several coaches, players, and announcers, that Norm Willey did indeed collect 17 sacks in one game, and that, if sacks were an official statistic at the time, Norm would now be recognized as the all time sacks leader. However, because Norm Willey’s sack records aren’t official, Norm hasn’t even been given the chance for election into the Hall of Fame.

I, for one, think this is a great injustice towards the history of the NFL. Firstly, regardless of whether Norm’s statistics are official or not, the impact that he had on the game is undeniable. The fact is, Norm was one of the greatest defensive players of his time, and he should be recognized for that.    

Furthermore, it is not as though the football Hall of Fame is supposed to rely entirely on statistics on the first place. Offensive linemen, for example, don’t have any official statistics, and yet people who know football can tell you how important they are to the game, and whether or not an offensive lineman is of All-Star or Hall of Fame caliber.

In addition, many offensive players in the Hall of Fame, such as Joe Namath, do not have very good statistics. However, Joe Namath, along with other old time players such as Otto Graham have been elected into the Hall for reasons other than optimal statistics.  

So, should Norm Willey be in the Hall of Fame? I think the answer is a clear yes. What do you think?