49ers Wide Receiver R.C. Owens Passes Away

Courtesy of 49ers via Instagram. View a photo gallery at 49ers.com

We've got some sad news to pass along this afternoon. 49ers wide receiver and legend R.C. Owens passed away yesterday at the age of 78. Owens was inducted into the Edward J. DeBartolo Sr. 49ers Hall of Fame this past year, alongside running back Roger Craig.

Owens spent the first five seasons (1957-1961) of his eight season career with the 49ers. He finished his time with the 49ers with 176 receptions, 2,926 yards and 20 touchdowns. He was most well-known by his nickname "Alley Oop", due to his ability to out-leap defenders to catch passes from Y.A. Tittle and John Brodie. Owens followed up his playing career by working in the 49ers front office as Director of Training Camp and then Director of Alumni Relations.

After the jump, I've posted the 49ers press release, including quotes from the York family.

"The 49ers family has suffered a great loss with the passing of R.C. Owens," said 49ers Owner and Chairman John York. "Long after his days as a player were over, his devotion to the organization remained strong. R.C. was an ever-present supporter of the 49ers Foundation and did great works with the community at large. The San Francisco 49ers and our Faithful fans will forever be grateful for his contributions and he will be sincerely missed."

"The 49ers are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of R.C. Owens," said 49ers Chief Executive Officer Jed York. "While his accomplishments on the field are well celebrated, his contributions to our organization and the Bay Area community are equally as impressive. As a player and a member of the 49ers front office, R.C. was a tremendous ambassador for our team. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to his friends, family, teammates and fans."

An eight-year NFL veteran, Owens spent his first five seasons as a member of the 49ers (1957-61) and then went on to play for the Baltimore Colts (1962-63) and New York Giants (1964). He totaled 177 receptions for 2,939 yards and 20 touchdowns with San Francisco. His most productive year came in 1961 when he started all 14 games, caught 55 passes for 1,032 yards and scored five touchdowns. In 2010, Owens was selected to the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame.

A former college basketball star at the College of Idaho, Owens transferred his skills over to the football field and was notorious for out-leaping defensive backs for high-arching passes from QB Y.A. Tittle. Thus, the origin of the term "Alley Oop" was created, and later became more well-known from its use in basketball. He finished his career with 206 catches for 3,285 yards.

After his playing career ended, Owens spent more than two decades, from 1979-2001, working for the 49ers. In that time, he held various positions for the team, including Director of Training Camp and Director of Alumni Relations. Among his duties, outside of donning a red suit and a white beard every Christmas, were ensuring players' families were cared for and entertained while the team practiced-a role he loved.

While the 49ers attended summer training camp in Stockton (1998-02), Owens started a summer reading program in schools while doubling as the 49ers training camp director. By the end of the term, he had helped the program recruit more than 10,000 kids from San Joaquin County into reading programs. With the help of players and alumni, Owens still has a huge impact on the county's reading programs, including a program at Shasta Elementary School in Manteca, Calif.

Owens was presented with the Northern California Alumni Chapter's Distinguished Service award and was given $2,000 to give to his favorite charity. He dispersed the monies throughout a few different nonprofit groups in Manteca.

In retirement, Owens lived with wife Susan and their two dogs in Manteca, about 75 miles east of San Francisco. He had a kidney transplant in 2004. A native of Shreveport, La., R.C. Owens was born on November 12, 1933. He is survived by his wife, Susan.

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