Feb. 4 (UPI) -- Former Green Bay Packers great and Pro Football Hall of Fame safety Willie Wood has died. He was 83.
Wood died Monday at an assisted living facility in Washington, D.C., after battling an advanced stage of dementia for at least a decade, the team said.
"The Green Bay Packers family lost a legend today with the passing of Willie Wood," Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy said in a statement. "Willie's success story, rising from an undrafted rookie free agent to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, is an inspiration to generations of football fans.
"While his health challenges kept him from returning to Lambeau Field in recent years, his alumni weekend visits were cherished by both Willie and our fans. We extend our deepest condolences to Willie's family and friends."
Wood played his entire 12-year NFL career with the Packers, joining the team in 1960 and retiring after the 1971 season. He won five NFL Championships, went to the Pro Bowl eight times and was a five-time All-Pro.
The University of Southern California product had 48 interceptions for 699 yards, 16 fumble recoveries and two scores in 166 NFL games. Wood led the league in punt returns in 1961, averaging 16.1 yards per run back, and his 1,391 career punt return yards are the most in Packers history.
The star safety mostly played as a run-heavy quarterback at USC, while spending some time in the secondary. After he was passed over by every NFL team in the 1960 draft, he sent several postcards to NFL franchises asking for a tryout. Legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi was the only one interested in signing Wood.
Wood never missed a game during his NFL tenure and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989.
"The game has lost a true legend with the passing of Willie Wood," Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker said. "He had an unbelievable football career which helped transform Green Bay, Wisc., into Titletown, U.S.A. Willie was a rare player who always fought to be a great teammate and achieve success. He entered the league as an undrafted free agent and became one of the greatest to ever play the game. The Hall of Fame will forever keep his legacy alive to serve as inspiration to future generations."
Wood became the defensive backs coach for the San Diego Chargers in 1972 and was later the head coach of the Philadelphia Bell of the World Football League and the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.
Wood is survived by two sons and a daughter.