Sunday was a sad day as we learned that San Francisco 49ers legend Dwight Clark has been diagnosed with ALS. Clark announced the news in an open letter on Eddie DeBartolo’s website. If you want to make a donation to the ALS Association in Clark’s honor, click here. It is a highly rated charity.
As one would expect, Clark’s teammates and friends have rallied around him. The DeBartolo website posted some quotations from Eddie, friends, and teammates. We have seen Eddie DeBartolo provide extensive support to former 49ers players in their times of need, and I imagine we will see nothing less than extensive support for Clark and his family in the coming years.
“Dwight has been an integral part of my family’s life for almost four decades. We are absolutely devastated. We vow to do everything in our power to support Dwight and Kelly and help them fight this horrible disease.”
- Eddie DeBartolo, Pro Football Hall of Fame Owner
“Dwight Clark is one of those guys that lights up the room – always smiling and making you feel great. When I heard the news, I like others in the 49er family, was devastated. DC changed the course of the 49ers with the catch. Don’t be surprised if he changes the course of this disease as well. Love you brother!”
- Harris Barton, 49ers teammate
“Dwight is like a brother to me. This news crushed me. I’ve vowed to him to be here for whatever he needs from me. Whenever or wherever. He deserves all our heartfelt support.”
- Roger Craig, 49ers teammate
“There is nothing tougher than watching a great friend go through a serious health challenge. Dwight is handling this adversity with uncommon strength and the heart of a courageous champion, and our family’s thoughts and prayers are constantly with Dwight and Kelly. I know that they are fully aware that we will continue to walk alongside them, and do anything and everything possible to help them through this tough time.”
- Brent Jones, 49ers teammate
“Heartbreaking news. My pal, he’s such a great friend. I can imagine what a great teammate he must’ve been. He’s the absolute first guy I’d want in my foxhole. Whatever becomes, you can be sure Dwight will handle it with strength, dignity, humor and courage.”
- Huey Lewis, longtime friend
“To live with another of my best friends struggling with a disease like ALS is devastating. I’m asking all of us to not only send their prayers but I’m asking you to do whatever you can to fight this disease. Dwight will be a champion, which he has been able to show since I met him, since the first time he’s hugged me and to this day moving forward.”
- Ronnie Lott, Pro Football Hall of Famer and 49ers teammate
“Jennifer and I are saddened by the diagnosis of Dwight. This is a difficult time for Dwight, Kelly and all of us who love him. He is family, and in our continual thoughts and prayers. We hope the public will be cognizant of Dwight’s desire for privacy.“
- Joe Montana, Pro Football Hall of Famer and 49ers teammate
“DC has done so much for me as a player and friend. My rookie year he showed me how to run that out route! We know him for the catch but he’s a great individual who cares about people. Please pray for him Faithful through this adversity!!! I love the guy!!!!”
- Jerry Rice, Pro Football Hall of Famer and 49ers teammate
“We are here for Dwight. We are teammates for life and we will not allow him to go through this challenge alone. I am proud of the courageous way he is approaching this challenge. I will be here for him and with him. “
- Keena Turner, 49ers teammate
“I was deeply saddened to learn of Dwight’s recent diagnosis. As a member of our family, he will receive the full and unconditional support of the San Francisco 49ers. Many know Dwight as an iconic figure in 49ers lore, whose accomplishments on the field brought joy to fans around the world. Our organization is fortunate to know him more intimately as a wonderful man who has given so much of himself as an ambassador to the entire Bay Area. We will stand alongside Dwight and his family as they wage this battle.”
- Jed York, 49ers CEO
Here is the full letter from Dwight Clark:
In September of 2015, I started feeling weakness in my left hand. I was mildly paying attention to it because since my playing days, I’ve constantly had pain in my neck. I was thinking it was related to some kind of nerve damage because it would just come and go.
After months of tests and treatment, I got some bad news. I was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. I have ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Those words are still very hard for me to say.
While I’m still trying to wrap my head around the challenge I will face with this disease over the coming years, the only thing I know is that I’m going to fight like hell and live every day to the fullest.
There is no test that will positively diagnose you with ALS. You have to eliminate the possibility of all other diseases and disorders and then wait to see what additional symptoms you develop. I visited six neurologists and three ALS specialists. I also was treated for a B12 deficiency, which sometimes can mirror the symptoms of this debilitating disease.
In addition to losing strength in my left hand – which makes opening a pack of sugar or buttoning my shirt impossible – I have now experienced weakness in my right hand, abs, lower back and right leg. I can’t run, play golf or walk any distances. Picking up anything over 30 pounds is a chore. The one piece of good news is that the disease seems to be progressing more slowly than in some patients.
I’ve been asked if playing football caused this. I don’t know for sure. But I certainly suspect it did. And I encourage the NFLPA and the NFL to continue working together in their efforts to make the game of football safer, especially as it relates to head trauma.
What I do know is I have a huge battle in front of me and I’m grateful for the strength and unconditional love from my wife Kelly. She has been my rock. She keeps thinking positive and convinces me each day that we can beat this, as does my daughter Casey and my son Mac. My brother Jeff, his wife Debra and their family also have been unwavering with their love and support.
I get the same pep talk from the Boss, Eddie D. His support has been incredible. So rest assured, I know I’m not alone in this fight.
Every single one of my 49ers teammates that has contacted me has said whatever I need, anytime I need it, they will help. That’s just the kind of guys they are. They were so giving as players and now they are the same as friends.
I can’t thank my teammates and friends enough or their support. Mr. D always treated us like family and that family is still together. I also want to thank all the great 49ers fans. Your support over the last 35 years has allowed me to remain connected to you. Rarely does a day go by when I’m not asked about ‘the Catch,’ when we were able to get past the Cowboys and go on to win our first Super Bowl.
I’m not having a press conference or doing any interviews. That time will come. Right now, I’ve got work to do. I’ve got to devote all my energy preparing for this battle and I would hope you can respect my family’s privacy as I begin this challenge. My ultimate hope is that eventually I can assist in finding a cure for ALS, which disrupts the lives of so many and their loved ones.