Dillon, Packers’ career leader in interceptions, dies at 89

DB played with one glass eye
The Associated Press

Bobby Dillon, the Green Bay Packers’ career leader in interceptions who lost his left eye following two childhood accidents, died Aug. 22 in Temple, Texas.

He was 89.

The New York Times reported that Dillon’s daughter, Karen Gooch, said the cause was complications of dementia.

Dillon played safety for Green Bay from 1952 to 1959, setting the franchise record for interceptions with 52, including four against the Lions on Thanksgiving Day in 1953.

Dillon returned five interceptions for touchdowns and led the league in interception return yards in 1956 with 244.

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

A native of Pendleton, Texas, Dillon moved with his family to Temple where he lived his entire life. After becoming an All-America defensive back and team captain at the University of Texas, Dillon was selected by the Packers in the third round of the 1952 draft.

Dillon was an AP All-Pro selection four times and was selected for the Pro Bowl four times, all while playing with a glass eye.

Dillon said he first injured his left eye when he was 5 or 6 years old, The New York Times reported.

“My dad was doing something and I got a piece of metal in my eye,” he said. “The doctor removed it and it caused a little cataract to grow. They removed that.”

When he was 9, he said, “another little boy my age accidentally hit me in the face with a board and broke my glasses and cut the white part of the eye. The eye started deteriorating, and by the time I was 10 years old, it would not dilate and it was hurting my sight. So when I was 10, they decided to take it out.”

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.

Dillon retired in 1959 after playing just one season for Vince Lombardi. At the time, his 52 interceptions ranked second on the NFL’s all-time list behind Emlen Tunnell.

“He and Willie Wood were the two best safeties we ever had here,” said Dave Hanner, a Pro Bowl defensive tackle who played alongside both Dillon and Wood, on the Packers’ website . “When Lombardi came here, he talked about Bobby being the best defensive back in the league at that time.”

Dillon was inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1974 but missed out on selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

After leaving football, Dillon joined Wilsonart, a Texas-based furnishings manufacturer. He spent 36 years with the firm, eventually becoming president and chief executive.