We're moving through this series now and only have two more installations to go after this one. I'll be going over the defensive linemen today, next week we'll cover the linebackers (apparently our All-Time Niner team plays with 12 guys on the defense), the week after that it will be the secondary and then we'll head out into uncharted territory.
The all time Niner Defensive line consists of two Hall of Famers, another player whom I think belongs there. One of them was elected to the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame, another invented the position of pass rush specialist, one is a college defensive line coach, and one was the first player ever selected in the USFL draft. Join me after the jump to figure out which player did what.
Fred Dean was an instrumental part of the Niners 1981 Super Bowl win. He was acquired by the team in a mid-season trade. When he arrived in San Francisco Bill Walsh told him that he was going to be used primarily as a pass rush specialist, which initially didn't sit too well with him. His first game was against the Cowboys and he sacked Danny White 3 times. Now there are many teams who employ pass rush specialists on third downs, yet another facet of the game that Bill Walsh invented. He retired from the game in 1985 but wasn't elected to the Hall of Fame until 2008. Eddie DeBartolo Jr presented him.
After football Dean started a car repair shop but lost it in the early 1990s because of an IRS audit. He's been unable to work much because of a slew of health problems related to his playing days. He has frequent migraines from his numerous concussions as well as back pains. He was forced to pawn his two Super Bowl rings due to mounting medical bills.
He's now living in Ruston, Louisiana where he finds that the weather is more amenable to his health needs.
Great article from sfgate written after Dean was elected to the HOF
49ers Dean is headed to the Hall of Fame
Some great photos of Dean from www.49ers.com
Another great article from the pressdemocrat written back in 2007
Fred Dean not elected to the Hall of Fame
Some comments from teammates and opponents about what he was like as a player
In the Words of . . .
SI Vault article written in 1981
Nomellini was a character among characters. He was born in Italy and immigrated with his family to the United States. He grew up in Chicago, fought with the Marines in WWII, and then signed on to play for the San Francisco 49ers. He was a versatile player, appearing on both sides of the ball. He played both offensive and defensive tackle, winning All-Pro honors at both positions. He also has the distinction of being the very first player ever drafted by the 49ers.
Nomellini played for the 49ers from 1950 to 1963. In 1969 he was elected to the Hall of Fame.
During the off-season and after his pro football career Nomellilni was a Pro-Wrestler with the nickname of Leo "The Lion" Nomelllini. He won two world tag team titles and and individual title. When he retired from wrestling he was elected to the Pro Wrestlers Hall of Fame.
Leo passed away on October 17, 200 from complications resulting from a stroke.
Here's a great YouTube clip highlight some of Leo's football and wrestling moves.
Young is the most recent 49er to make the all-time list. He spent his entire career with San Francisco, being drafted in 1994 and retiring after the 2007 season. In all he played for 14 seasons. He was the last remaining member of the 1995 Super Bowl team. He retired with 89.5 sacks, He's not been retired long so there's not much info. He was an assistant coach at Notre Dame for awhile, but when Weiss was fired he left. He's been hired as the defensive line coach for San Jose State.
is Bryant Young Hall of Fame worthy? I think so. He retired in 2007, so he's not eligible until 2012 but I expect his name will be among those considered by the voters.
Hardman signed with the 49ers in 1970 as a first round pick and played until 1979. Like Dean he was also a great pass rusher, making it to two Pro-Bowls. He played for the Raiders in 1980 and 1981. In 1982 he was signed by the Oakland Invaders of the USFL as the first player in that draft. He was both a player and a coach and led them to a 9-9 record that first season.
Hardman lives in Laguna Beach. He mostly does promotional appearances, autograph signings and the like. He appeared in a handful of movies and tv shows but never made it a career. According to him he doesn't have much interest in the modern game having only watched a handful since his retirement.10 year club profile
Two 49er greats together