Willie Wood, a Hall of Fame safety for the Green Bay Packers, was honored Wednesday when a block in the Northwest neighborhood of his childhood was renamed for him.
Friends & Family of Willie Wood, a support group for the 75-year-old Wood, who suffers from dementia and football injuries, lobbied city officials to add Wood’s name to the N Street NW block that meets a corner with First Street NW.
In recent years, the group has raised funds to help Wood pay his medical bills and has pushed to get him recognized for his firsts, including his being the first black head coach in the Canadian Football League.
More than 100 residents, relatives and friends gathered on the corner for the unveiling, led by Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D). “The only thing I regret is we should have done this a long time ago,” Gray told the crowd.
Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) said he was glad Wood was being honored while he is living. “We don’t give people their flowers while they can still smell them,” Barry said.
Wood grew up playing football at the neighborhood boys club and was later a star player at Armstrong High School, eventually landing at the University of Southern California.
When he wasn’t drafted, mentor Bill Butler, a local boys’ club coach known for guiding a host of District athletes to college and professional careers, helped with a letter-writing campaign that led to Wood getting a successful tryout with the Packers. Butler died in 2008.
Wood went on to be a premier safety and played in two winning Superbowls.