Packers' all-time interception leader, Bobby Dillon, dies at 89

1950s safety picked off 52 passes; team record has stood for 60 years


Bobby Dillon, holder of the Green Bay Packers' oldest and most prestigious individual defensive record, died Aug. 22, at age 89. He was living in Temple, Texas, at the time and funeral services were held there Wednesday.

Dillon played safety for the Packers from 1952 to 1959 and intercepted a club-record 52 passes. Interceptions were the first defensive statistic kept by the National Football League, starting in 1940, and Dillon's team record has stood for 60 years with little chance of it being broken anytime soon.

He led the Packers in interceptions in seven of his eight seasons, including three years with nine: 1953, '55 and '57. Irv Comp set the Packers' single-season record for interceptions with 10 in 1943.

Dillon also shared the Packers' single-game record for interceptions with Willie Buchanon. Dillon set the record with four against Detroit on Nov. 26, 1953.

"He and Willie Wood were the two best safeties we ever had here," Dave Hanner, who spent 44 years with the Packers as a player, coach and scout, said in a 2004 interview. "Old Bobby was smart. And he was tough. He'd get knocked out a couple times a game, but he'd come right back. Return punts with one eye and he did a good job. When Lombardi came here, he talked about Bobby being the best defensive back in the league at that time."

Hanner played with Dillon his entire career and retired as a scout in 1996. His tenure in football operations was longer than any coach, scout or player in Packers history.

Born on a farm in Pendleton, Texas, Dillon moved with his family to Temple and lived there his entire life. After playing collegiately for the University of Texas, Dillon was selected by the Packers in the third round of the 1952 draft.

He was chosen Associated Press All-Pro four times and to the United Press team in yet another season. Dillon also was selected for the Pro Bowl four times.

He was named to the Packers' 50th anniversary team in 1969, their all-modern era team in 1976 and their all-century team in 1999.

When Dillon retired, his 52 interceptions ranked second on the NFL's all-time list behind Emlen Tunnell.

When Vince Lombardi was named head coach and general manager of the Packers in 1959, he spent his first few months on the job studying his players on film. When he was done, Lombardi declared that Dillon was one of three untouchables on his roster. He also said he was the best defensive back in the league.

Dillon was inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1974.

Pro Football Hall of Fame general manager Ron Wolf has lobbied for Dillon to also be inducted into Canton for years.

"Look what he did," Wolf said in 2008. "Six years on a first team all-pro. (Detroit's) Yale Lary got in there because he was a really good player, but he also was an exceptional punter. But Dillon played on a much poorer team and he had six years he was all-pro."

Dillon planned to retire before Lombardi was hired but was coaxed into playing another season. But when the season ended, Dillon announced his retirement again and stuck with it.

"I was never against him man-to-man, but he happened to be one of the best centerfielders who ever played the game," Raymond Berry, Pro Football Hall of Famer and all-time great Johnny Unitas' favorite target with the Baltimore Colts, said in 2013. "Bobby Dillon was one of the most superior athletes you'll ever find in the NFL. He had tremendous speed. Great brains. Great range. Great instinct."

Dillon's funeral arrangements were handled by Scanio-Harper Funeral Home in Temple. He was survived by his son, Dan, and daughter Karen Gooch and her husband, Richard.

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