Bill Dudley dies at 88; Hall of Fame football star
Feb 05, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Bill Dudley, a Hall of Fame player who in 1946 with the Pittsburgh Steelers led the NFL in rushing, punt returns and interceptions, died Thursday in Lynchburg, Va., after suffering a stroke last weekend. He was 88.
"Bullet" Bill Dudley was a runner, passer, punter, kicker and defensive back during his nine-year NFL career, highlighted by his 1946 season in which he was the league's Most Valuable Player. Dudley was one of only three NFL players to have ever won the triple crown for leading the league in three statistical categories; Sammy Baugh of the Washington Redskins did so in 1943, as did Steve Van Buren of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1945.
Dudley starred in college at Virginia and was the No. 1 overall draft choice of the Steelers in 1942. He played three seasons with Pittsburgh, leading the league in rushing his rookie year. His football career was interrupted in 1943 and 1944 because of Army service during World War II. He later played three years with the Detroit Lions and three with the Redskins. He retired in 1953.
In 1947, playing for Detroit, Dudley scored 11 touchdowns -- on seven receptions, two rushes, a punt return and an interception return -- and threw two touchdown passes.
Born Dec. 24, 1921, in Bluefield, Va., Dudley played at 5 feet 10 and 182 pounds. He was not especially fast, but he earned his "Bullet" nickname because he always hit his target.
He was 16 when given a scholarship to Virginia and 19 when he cemented his status as perhaps the greatest athlete in school history. As a senior in 1941, he had a hand in 206 of the 279 points the team scored on its way to an 8-1 record. He was an All-American and winner of the Maxwell Award as the nation's top player. He was fifth in Heisman Trophy balloting.
Dudley was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1966.
After his playing career, he entered the insurance business with his brother, Jim, and also served four two-year terms in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1966-75.
Dudley and his wife, Libba, celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary in July. They had lived in Lynchburg since 1950.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his son Jim and daughters Jarrett Millard and Rebecca Stinson. The Dudleys had another son, William, who died of leukemia at age 6 in 1954.