With the impending release of Carlos Rogers, the Free Agency status of Donte Whitner and Tarrell Brown and the uncertainty of Chris Culliver's injury, I'm reminded of one of the Greatest Stories in Niners' Lore: The Fabulous Foursome - 1981 Niners' Secondary.
The Year was 1981. Bill Walsh had just begun his Quest for One as head coach of the Niners. The previous year wasn't all that spectacular, but the Niners had a budding superstar in this skinny kid from Notre Dame. Walsh felt pretty good about the offense, but the defense worried him.
The defensive backfield was abysmal. It was characterized as a rotating door. So many different players attempted to play with consistency. Walsh knew he needed to do something about the secondary and he would address it in the 1981 draft. Walsh also knew he had one good player out of that last year''s group - Dwight Hicks.
Dwight Hicks was a sixth round pick from the Detroit Lions in 1978. He didn' t make the Lions' team that year. The next year, he played for both the Toronto Argonauts and the Philadelphia Eagles. He was cut in 1979 from the Eagles and then signed with the Niners.
When the Niners signed him, Dwight was managing a health food store in Detroit. In 1980, he started every game for the Niners. Walsh liked Hicks and knew he could be a great leader for a young secondary.
With that thought, in 1981, the Niners addressed their secondary needs. During the First Round of that year's draft, the Niners had the number eight overall pick. There were two prospects at safety the Niners were interested in: Kenny Easley (UCLA) and Ronnie Lott (USC).
Siefert coveted Lott as he thought Lott had better versatility. He was right. The Niners thought that the Seahawks, who were picking fourth overall, would take Lott. Instead, the Seahawks took Kenny Easley. Kenny was a good player, but he wasn't Ronnie Lott. Few men are.
In the Second Round, the Niners selected Eric Wright with the number 40 overall pick. Walsh had coached the Senior Bowl and was familiar with him. Walsh knew that Wright, who played Safety in college, had versatility to play corner in the NFL. Wright's size, speed, and ability became the prototype for Niner corners for years to come.
In the Third Round, the Niners selected Carlton Williamson. Williamson had first round talent and the Niners loved getting him in the Third round. Williamson was a ball hawk of a safety and complimented Hicks in the way they played.
Walsh knew he had players to fill the roles, but he needed them to be coached up in a hurry. Taking a three year vet and three rookies into NFL play would be a difficult challenge.
The task to then Niners defensive back coach George Siefert and his assistant Ray Rhodes. What a job they did as the accomplishments are listed next to the player.
Eric Wright played for the Niners for ten years (1981-1990). He played in four Super Bowls, made two Pro Bowls (194-85) and was All Pro in 1985.
Dwight Hicks played for the Niners for eight years (1979-1985). As a team captain and elder statesman for the young Niners' secondary, Dwight played in two Super Bowls. He made the Pro Bowl in four consecutive years from 1981-1984. He was All Pro in 1981 and 1984.
Carlton Williamson played for the Niners for six years from 1981-1987. He played in two Super Bowls and made two Pro Bowls. In 1984 marked the first time Williamson and his secondary teammates (Hicks, Lott, and Wright) all made the Pro Bowl together.
There isn't a need to talk about how great HOF Ronnie Lott is. Instead, I'll just list these accomplishments and thank him for making my childhood a good one with memories that will last forever.
- 4×Super BowlChampion (XVI,XIX,XXIII,XXIV)
- 8×APFirst TeamAll-Pro(1981,1983,1986,1987,1988,1989,1990,1991)
- 10×Pro Bowl(1981,1982,1983,1984,1986,1987,1988,1989,1990,1991)
- NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team
- NFL 1980s All-Decade Team
- NFL 1990s All-Decade Team
- San Francisco 49ers #42 retired
- Pro Football Hall of Fame(2000 Inductee)
- Rated #11 NFL Player of all-time
I would like to see the Niners duplicate this effort with selections like Justin Gilbert, Deonne Buchannan, and Walt Aiken, We will see what the future holds and until then, stay Faithful my friends.