Sam Williams, former Detroit Lions defensive end and member of the famed Fearsome Foursome, died on Thursday, April 25, of heart failure. He was 82 years old.
Williams was selected by the Los Angeles Rams in the 24th round (288th overall) of the 1956 NFL Draft and played for nine seasons in the league, six of those with the Lions (1960-65).
“On behalf of the William Clay Ford family and the entire Detroit Lions organization, we extend our deepest sympathies to the Williams family," Team President Tom Lewand released in a statement.
“Sam will fondly be remembered as a key member of one of the best defensive fronts not only in Lions history but also in NFL history, teaming with Alex Karras, Roger Brown and Darris McCord, to form the original Fearsome Foursome.”
The group earned that nickname in 1962, playing under defensive coordinator Don Shula.
That season, Detroit's defense ranked No. 1 overall in the NFL, giving up a total of 3,217 yards. They were also best against the run allowing just 1,231 yards and a total of 177 points, which ranks 10th in team history for the fewest points allowed in a single season.
Both Brown and Karras were selected to the Pro Bowl that year, along with Joe Schmidt, Dick “Night Train” Lane, and Yale Lary.
A game that exemplified the way Detroit's defensive front dominated games that season was the "Thanksgiving Day Massacre."
The Lions' defense handed Green Bay their only loss of the season, holding them to a total of 122 yards on offense (49 passing, 73 rushing), and racked up a team record 11 sacks for a loss of 102 yards.
During consecutive plays in the second quarter, the defensive line put nine points on the board as Brown sacked Packers' QB Bart Starr, forcing a fumble, which Williams picked up and ran in for a 6-yard touchdown.
When Green Bay took the ball on the next possession, Brown sacked Starr once again, this time in the end zone for a safety.
The Lions won that game 26-14.
Williams finished out his career with Atlanta, where he played for two seasons (1966-67).
A Michigan native, Williams was born in Dansville, a suburb of Lansing, and was a standout football player at Michigan State.
Williams is survived by his son, a daughter, Daune (Williams) Morris, and three grandchildren.