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"Bullet Bill" Dudley

'Bullet Bill' Dudley
  • Hall of Fame 1966
  • Hall of Honor 2017
  • Pro Bowl 1950
  • Pro Bowl 1951

Before Jerome Bettis, before Franco Harris, and before John Henry Johnson, there was a man who dominated in the backfield for the Pittsburgh Steelers – Bill Dudley.

Dudley, the Steelers first-round draft choice in 1942 who was nicknamed "Bullet Bill", set the standard for the backs that would come after him, despite being a small back at only 5-10, 182 pounds. He was the league's leading rusher his rookie year with 696 yards, earning him all-league honors.

"We had a lot of fun," Dudley was quoted as saying. "Pittsburgh in 1942 was probably one of the most fun years I ever had. I didn't know anything about Pittsburgh. All the steel mills were in full blast. You couldn't see the sun for the smoke. Probably we'd work out from one to three o'clock in the afternoon, and it was just overcast all morning long."

The next two years Dudley left football, serving in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II as a B-25 and B-29 pilot in the Pacific.

But football was what he loved, so when he returned it was back to the Steelers during the 1945 season. Dudley's best season in a Steelers uniform came in 1946 when he was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player while leading the league in rushing (604), punt returns (27), and interceptions (10).

"The Rooney family, I knew Mr. (Art) Rooney very well," said Dudley, who was an honorary co-captain when the Steelers kicked off their 75th season in 2007. "Mr. Rooney Sr., next to my father, was one of the most influential men in my life. I only played three years with them, but the family was so unique and I know they still are. It's a family organization. It's first-class, all business, no messing around."

Following his time with the Steelers, Dudley went on to play for the Detroit Lions (1947-49) and Washington Redskins (1950-51 and 1953).

Dudley, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 88, was humbled to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as he shared in his induction.

"There's not much that one who the game of football has meant so much to that you truly can say at this moment," said Dudley in Canton, Ohio. "Football has been a part of my life for the past 35 or 40 well the past 45 years, and I hope it's part of my life for as long as I live and particularly this football Hall of Fame. I feel humble, very humble to be considered to be a member as well as to be considered a part of pro football because it's great today, it was great years ago when it was first started here in Canton, and it'll be greater tomorrow. Thank you."