Chris Willis has worked at NFL Films as Head of the Research Library since 1996. His first book, Old Leather: An Oral History of Early Pro Football in Ohio, 1920-1935, was published in 2005 by Scarecrow Press. Old Leather was given the 2005 Nelson Ross Award by the Professional Football Researchers Association for recent Achievement in Football Research and Historiography. His second book, The Columbus Panhandles : A Complete History of Pro Football's Toughest Team, 1900-1922, was published in 2007 by Scarecrow Press.
As the resident historian at NFL Films he helps oversees all aspects of research for the company and their producers. In 2002 he was nominated for an Emmy for his work on the HBO Documentary "The Game of Their Lives: Pro Football in the 1950's." He has also been a member of the Professonal Football Researchers Association (PFRA) since 1993 and also writes for the Blog Pro Football Journal.
In 1997 and 1998 he gave oral presentations at the "Pro Football and American Life" Symposiums held at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Before starting at NFL Films he graduauted with a B.S. in Physical Education from Urbana (OH) University- while playing four years on the Urbana football team- and attended one year of Graduate School at the Ohio State University in Sports History.
Willis is a native of Columbus, Ohio and currently resides in Audubon, New Jersey.
Willis's third book was released in September of 2010. Titled "The Man Who Built the National Football League: Joe F. Carr," is a biography of Joe F. Carr, former NFL President from 1921-1939. The book will go into detail on Carr's life as well the history of the National Football League's first two decades. In 2014 this book was published in paperback by Rowman & Littlefield.
The fourth book written by Willis is a biography on NFL Hall of Famer Dutch Clark. Clark played 7 seasons in the NFL and was the first big star for the Detroit Lions. He was the "Ty Cobb" of football in the Motor City. The book was published by Scarecrow Press in 2012.
Willis's fifth book is about the 1984 San Francisco 49ers who went 18-1 and won Super Bowl XIX. By interviewing over 30 players from the team "A Nearly Perfect Season: The Inside Story of the 1984 49ers" goes into vivid details of one of the NFL's greatest teams. The book was published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2014.
Willis's newest book is about Walter Lingo, Jim Thorpe and the Oorang Indians, another story about the early days of the NFL. Published by Rowman & Littlefield in May of 2017.