Former 49ers wide receiver Freddie Solomon passed away on Monday after a nine-month battle with colon and liver cancer. Given my age, Solomon had just wrapped up his career with the 49ers when I was first getting into football and learning about the 49ers. Solomon remains a franchise great and a rather underrated player. He was often overlooked playing alongside Dwight Clark, but Solomon was an important part of the early years of the 49ers dynasty.
The 49ers sent out a release late yesterday with a rundown of Solomon's career, as well as some quotations from several 49ers who were close to Solomon. Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News had a particularly interesting tweet:
Ex-owner Eddie DeBartolo took care of Solomon in final months, taking him to chemo and sitting by his side. #49ers— Daniel Brown (@mercbrownie) February 14, 2012
He's not the only person that has taken care of a loved one in their time of need, but it is still worth noting how close he was to the players in his employ. Although there was an employer-employee relationship, I can't recall many owners that seemed quite as close to their players as Eddie DeBartolo seems to the many great 49ers of the 80s.
Former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver, Freddie Solomon, passed away earlier today at the age of 59. Services will be held on Friday, February 17th at Saint Lawrence Church in Tampa, FL.
Originally drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the 2nd round (36th overall) of the 1975 NFL Draft, Solomon was acquired via trade by the 49ers in 1978. Solomon went on to have a successful eight-year career in San Francisco, winning two Super Bowl titles (1981, 1984).
During his eight-year career in San Francisco, Solomon snatched 310 receptions for 4,873 yards and 43 touchdowns while also rushing for 329 yards and 3 touchdowns. Aside from former QB Joe Montana, Solomon was thought of as the most important element in the multi-dimensional 49ers offense. A staple in Bill Walsh's West Coast Offense, Solomon provided the 49ers with a deep threat down the field and in the return game. In 1980, Solomon became the first player in franchise history to return two punts for scores in a single-season. Solomon still holds the franchise record for best receiving average in a single season with 21.4 yards per reception in 1983 (min. 25 recepts.).
An 11-year NFL veteran, Solomon retired from the game after the 1985 season and finished his career with 371 receptions for 5,846 yards and 48 touchdowns.
Upon retiring from football, Solomon lived a life of service to the community. He worked for two decades in community relations with the Hillsborough County (FL) Sheriff's Office, mentoring youth and teaching vital life lessons through football fundamentals. Each winter for the past dozen years, Solomon also helped former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. organize a special Christmas celebration for foster children. Solomon was honored on his 59th birthday during the dedication of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Annex in Ybor City, which was named the Freddie Solomon Annex. In 2002, he was named the University of Tampa's Athlete of the Century.
Solomon starred collegiately at the University of Tampa, where he played quarterback. He finished his four-year career completing 188 of 436 attempts for 2,504 yards and 11 touchdowns, while adding 3,299 rushing yards and 39 touchdowns on 557 carries. Solomon also posted 17, 100-yard rushing games.
A native of Sumter, S.C., Solomon was born on January 11, 1953. A high-school standout from Sumter High, Solomon was named the state's No. 1 high-school athlete of the 20th century by a Columbia, S.C., newspaper. Solomon is survived by his wife of 33 years, the former Delilah (Dee) Jeffers of Tampa.
Reflections from former 49ers:
"It's certainly a sad day here. Just trying to get my hands around it a little bit because I've never had anyone, other than family members, Freddie Solomon's the closest person to me who's passed away. I'll miss him terribly. He was a great friend. He taught me how to be an NFL player. He was very unselfish with teaching me all the things I needed to know to play in the NFL. My heart goes out to his wife, Dee, and his mother-in-law, Sugar, and my thoughts and prayers are with them at this time."
- WR Dwight Clark
"I am deeply saddened by the passing of my dear friend Freddie Solomon today. My heart goes out to Dee, his family, the 49ers football family, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's office and football fans everywhere. Freddie and I have been friends for 35 years, and he was one of the most gentle and best men I have ever met in my life. Scores of generations will remember Freddie through their children and the youth he's helped over all these decades. I have never met a man who cared so much about the human race, and there will never be another Freddie."
- Eddie DeBartolo Jr.
"Freddie was a great player, but he was a better human being! His stand for helping the less fortunate and the voice he shared for making people do what is right and good was truly remarkable. This will always inspire me and others to achieve greatness for others and to be humble in our journey. God bless his family and his lovely wife."
- S Ronnie Lott
"Freddie Solomon was a dear friend and a great teammate. There was no one who gave more on and off the field than Freddie. The kindness he demonstrated was inspirational to all that knew him, and a joy to be around. The warmth of his smile will be forever embedded in my mind and heart. Jennifer and I have been blessed to have him in our lives. We will miss you Freddie!"
- QB Joe Montana
"Freddie was very influential to me and my career, and taught me about work ethic and professionalism. He inspired me to go out there every day and emulate him."
- WR Jerry Rice