When he described a true friend as someone who “advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably,” William Penn might have been describing a fellow William, former Packer great Willie Davis.
Davis, a Hall of Fame football player and a defensive lineman for the Green Bay Packers from 1960 through 1969, advocated for young players as Lombardi’s liaison. In the 50 years since, he had continued in that role, a perennial mentor and cheerful confidante. Yesterday, Mr. Davis served as one of the Packers’ honorary team captains.
My Dad, Ron Kostelnik, flanked the reliable Davis through three world championships and two Super Bowl titles. Until he died in 1993, my Dad considered Willie Davis a genuine friend.
Nearly 20 years after they retired, my Dad heard that a teammate was struggling, so he called Willie and together they hatched a plan to help. From the ground, my Dad searched shelter to shelter to find his teammate, Lionel Aldridge. Meanwhile, via his own contacts, Willie aided in the search. Eventually, Dad found Lionel and, for the rest of his life, the two of them kept track of their teammate and friend.
Several years ago when my husband ran for a state-wide office, Willie invited him to be an on-air guest in the studios of his Milwaukee radio station, a generous gesture we’ll never forget.
Mr. Davis’ post-football success has been well-documented; he sits on the boards of several Fortune 500 companies and received an honorary degree from my alma-mater Marquette University in 2010. He also owns all four Packer Super Bowl rings, earning the first two as a player and the second two as a member of Green Bay’s Board of Directors.
Less documented though equally impressive are the football star’s more anonymous activities, the generous support of an ailing teammate, the sound advice to a struggling friend.
Coach Lombardi chose Willie Davis to be his defensive captain 50 years ago and Davis has honored that selection every day since.