The San Francisco 49ers kick off the 2015 NFL regular season on Monday Night Football, on September 14. That game is now a mere 72 days away from kicking off their 2015 regular season. In the spirit of that approaching date, I thought I would steal this idea from our Oakland Raiders site.
Who wore it best: DL Cleveland Elam (1975-1978)
Uniform number 72 has a pretty under-the-radar history. Nobody currently wears it, and no 49er has worn the number since Chidi Ahanotu back in 2003. There is a strong competition between Cleveland Elam, Bill Belk, and Jeff Stover for the honors. Stover is probably remembered fairly well by 49ers fans given his impact in the mid-80s. However, for purposes of "who wore it best", we'll go with Elam.
Stover played for the 49ers from 1982 to 1988, and peaked in 1985 and 1986 with 21 sacks over the two seasons. Elam played fewer years than Stover, but he made a significant impact in that short time. He played for the 49ers for four seasons, and during that time netted two Pro Bowls and an All Pro nod. He was part of a dominant Gold Rush defensive line that included Cedric Hardman, Jimmy Webb and Tommy Hart. Sacks did not start getting counted officially until the 80s, but Elam reportedly had 14.5 sacks in 1976 and 17.5 in 1977. Injuries shortened his career.
While Stover does not get the nod, he does bring something interesting to the table for the purposes of the 2015 San Francisco 49ers. Stover joined the 49ers as an undrafted free agent, having never played football while at the University of Oregon. Stover competed in the shot-put, and was considered among the best in the country. It seems like he had Olympic-caliber talent, but was unable to take part due to the 1980 Moscow Olympics boycott.
Stover tried out for the 49ers following his shot-putting career, and was signed to the team. He played for the 49ers for seven years, but injuries cut short his career. The 49ers signed Olympic discus thrower Lawrence Okoye in 2013. He had no football experience, but incredible athleticism. Obviously he has not made an impact like Stover, but he heads into training camp with some opportunities available. Maybe he will still yet follow in the foot-steps of Stover.