Willard Dewveall: Old Reliable
Though tough and dependable, Willard “The Duke” Dewveall was never an all-star player for the Oilers.
Typically a second-stringer and utility player at both split-end and tight end positions, he was never considered to be a major threat, compared to the other powerful offensive weapons on the Houston roster.
Overshadowed by teammates like Bill Groman and Charlie Hennigan, who were collectively known as “The Long-Distance Twins,” Dewveall seemed like an old farm truck next to a pair of fast, sleek Ferraris.
A big, lanky 6-foot-4, 200-pound wide receiver from Southern Methodist (SMU), Dewveall utilized his speed and athleticism he honed on the track (akin to his teammate Groman) to make him a reliable receiver on the gridiron.
Dewveall’s journey to the Oilers was certainly not the most direct route. In 1958, he was drafted by the NFL’s Chicago Bears in the second round with the 18th overall pick, but he would not play for them immediately.
Dewveall decided to take his talents north across the border to the Canadian Football League and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for the 1958 season.
While there, he played for legendary coach Bud Grant (later of Minnesota Vikings fame) as the Blue Bombers captured the CFL’s Grey Cup championship.
In 1959, Dewveall jumped to the NFL to play two seasons for another legendary coach, the Bears’ George Halas.
Although a major contributor for the Bears in 1959 (starting six of 11 games in which he played and racking up 420 yards and three touchdowns on 20 catches), Dewveall came into his own in 1960, starting all 12 of Chicago’s games and piling up 804 yards and five touchdowns on 43 catches, earning second-team All-NFL honors.
In a somewhat surprising move, Dewveall left the Bears to join the Oilers in 1961, because the allure of playing in a high-flying offense proved to be too great for him to ignore.
He would be joining a team that would go on to average 36 points per game, including 45 or more in five of their last seven regular season games, and scored a whopping 71 more points than their opponents in the 1961 season.
Dewveall’s initial impact for the defending champions was a relatively small one, as he only posted 12 catches for 200 yards and three touchdowns.
However, a season later, Dewveall began to mesh with Oiler quarterbacks George Blanda and Jacky Lee. He caught a then-record, 98-yard touchdown pass from Lee en route to boosting his season totals to 33 catches for 576 yards and five touchdowns.
Although his career accolades are not as gaudy as those of his teammates, Dewveall’s football career accolades are still impressive.
He was a collegiate All-American at SMU, won two championships in two different leagues in two countries, and accumulated 204 catches, 3,304 yards, and 27 touchdowns over six NFL seasons.
Dewveall’s career legacy is a simple one: he made the tough, clutch catches and provided an important progressional read that allowed Oiler offenses to pile up yards, touchdowns, and the first two AFL championships.
Dillon Holloway is a native Mississippian currently residing in central Oklahoma. He is a rabid football fan and a historian of the sport. He is a husband, a military officer, volunteer teacher and football coach, and emerging guest speaker. He graduated from the University of Mississippi with a bachelor’s in English and a minor in aerospace studies. He played football from pee-wee through high school, winning the 2A Midsouth Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) state championship and was named first-team all-district guard in 2011. Since his first football practice, he has always made the sport a part of his life in some fashion, and writing for Miss Ya Blue! allows him to continue to do so.
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