We learned today that "Bullet Bill" Dudley, former halfback for the University of Virginia, died today at his home in Lynchburg, Va. at age 88. He was Virginia's first All-American, and was also recipient of the Maxwell Award for the best college football player of the year. In the NFL, he was MVP in 1946 and a three-time Pro Bowl selection. He will be remembered as one of the greatest players to don the Virginia jersey.
He began his career at the University of Virginia in 1938 as a punter and tailback. The 150lbs. Dudley began the 1939 season as a fifth back. Due to injuries on the team, he found his way onto the field and begin the journey. By 1940, he was the starting tailback for every game and was the Southern Conference's leader in total offense.
But it was his senior year at Virginia that was heard around the nation. In the rivalry game against the University of North Carolina, Dudley scored all three touchdowns (passing for the third) and kicked for four extra points. In addition to All-American and Maxwell Award honors that season, Dudley was also named the best college player of the year by the Washington D.C. Touchdown Club. He led the nation in four categories: touchdowns (18), points scored (134), rushing average (6.2 yards per play) and touchdowns responsible for (29).
In 1942, he was the overall number one draft pick in the NFL, going to the Pittsburg Steelers. There, he led the Steelers to a 7-4 record -- the best season in their history to that point -- and finished with 696 rushing yards to lead the league.
Following that season he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, where he served as a B-25 and B-29 pilot in the Pacific. He would return to the NFL, but not before he led the Army's football team to a perfect 12-0 record, was named MVP, and made the All-Service squad.
He returned to the Steelers for four games in 1945, and in 1945, led the lead once again in rushing (604 yards), as well as interceptions (10) and punt returns. He was also named NFL MVP that season. This award made Dudley the only player in football history to receive MVP in college, service and pro sectors.
Dudley would go on to play for the Detroit Lions from 1947-1949, and the Washington Redskins from 1950-1951 and 1953. He led both teams in scoring every year.
Bullet was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1956, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1966, and the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 1972. The Downtown Club of Richmond has sponsored the Bill Dudley Award since 1990, an award given to the state's top college player. Since 1993 The Bill Dudley Scholarship Foundation has awarded scholarships to Richmond-area high school senior football players. The winners must distinguish themselves based on academic performance, extra-curricular and community activities, financial need and athletic achievement.
He had lived in Lynchburg, Va. since 1951, where he was in the insurance industry and had served four terms in the Virginia House of Delegates.
"Everyone associated with the University of Virginia and our athletics programs is saddened by the passing of Bill Dudley," said UVa athletics director Craig Littlepage. "His accomplishments as both a college and professional athlete are well documented by the various awards he earned during his playing career. Stated succinctly, Bill Dudley was one of the all-time greats in college and pro football."
"Most of all, Bill Dudley truly distinguished himself in the way he was an ambassador for the University of Virginia throughout his life. There will never be a better representative of the University than "Bullet" Bill Dudley. We all share the sorrow and the loss felt by members of Bill's family."