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Willie Pless

  • Three-time All-Conference selection at KU
  • Set KU all-time and single season records for tackles
  • Played 14 seasons in the Canadian Football League
Pless, Willie
Inducted 2010

Born: Feb. 21, 1964 – Anniston, Alabama

Graduated: Anniston (Ala.) H.S., 1981; University of Kansas, 1985


If there was a tackle to be made for the Kansas Jayhawks from 1982-85, Willie Pless was there to make it. No player in the history of the KU football program had or has made more tackles than the 6-foot, 215-pound Pless, whose lack of size never hindered him in pursuit of a ball carrier.

College Career

Pless was a three-time All-Big Eight selection for the Jayhawks, finished his collegiate career with 633 tackles – 216 more than anyone else – and was named to the Big Eight Conference’s all-time team. His 206 tackles during the 1984 season – over 18 per game – is also a KU single-season mark.

Professional Highlights

The Anniston, Ala., native then took his game north of the border to the Canadian Football League and during his 14-year career (1986-99) with British Columbia, Toronto, Edmonton and Saskatchewan, established himself as one of the best linebackers to ever play in the CFL.  Pless was the dominant defensive player in the CFL from 1991 to 1998 with Edmonton. He was named All-Canadian for all eight years and won five outstanding defensive player awards including four in a row from 1994 to 1997.  All totaled, Pless was named to the All-CFL team 11 times and selected as the CFL Defensive player of the Year five times. Pless recorded 100 or more tackles in seven seasons and finished his CFL career with 84 sacks, 39 interceptions and 39 fumble recoveries.


Pless was inducted into the Canadian Football League Hall of Fame in 2005, is a member of the KU Athletic Hall of Fame and the KU Ring of Honor.