BRIDGEPORT, Pa. — As 2019 draws to a close, the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) continues its series on past players who achieved unique marks, records and/or achievements following their days competing in water polo at league institutions.
Although the CWPA is less than 40-years old, the league recognizes the athletes who came before its founding – including Osbern Putnam “Diddie” Willson who made the National Football league after competing as a water polo player at the University of Pennsylvania.
Born in 1911 in Crosby, Pa., Willson attended Oakfield High School in Oakfield, N.Y. before going on to play football, water polo and lacrosse at Penn.
In addition to his exploits on the football and lacrosse fields and the pool with water polo, he was noted as regularly winning the 100-yard dash and the shotput in track meets. At 5’9” and 215 pounds (his professional football weight was between 195-to-215 lbs. during his playing days) it was noted he could jump and grab a basketball rim. Further, he once beat the 1932 Olympic 100-meter champion Eddie Tolan in a 50-yard race (Tolan was coming off establishing a new world record of 10.38 at the time of the race with Willson).
He was one of the first players selected to join a new National Football League team – the Philadelphia Eagles – founded in 1933 as a replacement for the bankrupt Frankford Yellow Jackets. He appeared in 28 games from 1933-to-1935 as a guard and defensive end for the Eagles before leaving the NFL ranks.
Willson passed away on January 19, 1961 at the age of 50.