Vanderbilt legend Bill Wade died on Wednesday night at age 85, his daughter told Adam Sparks of The Tennesseean.
Wade was the SEC Player of the Year in 1951 and only two Commodores players have earned the award since. After his successful collegiate career, Wade was drafted with the first pick in the 1952 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams, where he played seven seasons.
He joined the Chicago Bears in 1961 and eventually led the team to the 1963 NFL Championship Game, where the Bears defeated the New York Giants, 14-10.
When Vanderbilt launched its Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008, Wade was one of 12 members of the inaugural class.
“We grew up in Nashville,” Wade told the university website in 2008, before his Hall of Fame induction. “My sister went to Vanderbilt and was four years older than me. I was just a Vanderbilt person, period. Vanderbilt is a good academic school and we competed in the Southeastern Conference, and I enjoyed all of those (aspects).”
In his later years, Wade suffered from dementia and lost his eyesight due to glaucoma complications, according to Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune.
“Our family is celebrating that his sight is restored, that he is able to walk and run on the field again,” Sharon Wade Kinser, Wade’s daughter, told The Tennesseean. “He is free, and he is home. So much has been robbed of him in the last decade. To be able to know that he can see the beauty of heaven gives our family comfort.”
Wade’s record of 6.1 yards per rushing or passing play in his career still stands as a Vanderbilt record after more than six decades.