Pat’s update: The 49ers have released this statement:
“The San Francisco 49ers family has suffered a tremendous loss today with the passing of Dwight Clark. We extend our condolences and prayers to Dwight’s wife, Kelly, his family, friends and fans, as we join together to mourn the death of one the most beloved figures in 49ers history. For almost four decades, he served as a charismatic ambassador for our team and the Bay Area. Dwight’s personality and his sense of humor endeared him to everyone he came into contact with, even during his most trying times. The strength, perseverance and grace with which he battled ALS will long serve as an inspiration to so many. Dwight will always carry a special place in our hearts and his legacy will live on as we continue to battle this terrible disease”
Matt Maiocco has just reported that Former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Dwight Clark has passed away following a battle with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 61. Clark’s wife confirmed it on his Twitter account.
Clark was best known for being the recipiant of “The Catch”, a pivotal play in the 1981 NFC Championship. On 3rd and 3, quarterback Joe Montana rolled right and threw the ball up into the endzone where Clark plucked it out of the sky. The play sent the 49ers to Super Bowl XVI, which they won and is still referenced to this day.
Born in Kinston, North Carolina, Clark attended Garinger High School in Charlotte. He attended Clemson University and played football as a wide receiver. Not seen as an NFL prospect initially, Clark answered a phone call on his way out of his apartment by 49ers coach Bill Walsh asking him to catch passes while Walsh worked out his roommate, quarterback Steve Fuller. The workout concluded with Walsh and Clark instead talking further and watching tape of the few catches Clark made.
Walsh would draft Clark in the 10th round of the 1979 NFL draft with pick 249. The same year as 49ers hall of fame quarterback Joe Montana. The two would go on to forge a friendship that lasted until Clark’s death.
Following The Catch, Clark would retire following the 1987 season. He spent all eight of his playing years as a 49er and received two Super Bowl rings in that time. The 49ers would later retire his number 87.
Clark would go on to be the General Manager and Director of Football Operations of the Cleveland Browns for three years before retiring.
Clark made his diagnosis with ALS known in March of 2017. The 49ers held an emotional “Dwight Clark Day” during the 2017 season where Clark addressed the fans.
Before The Catch, the 49ers were a laughing stock in the league. Even during the 1981 season when playing well and beating teams like the Dallas Cowboys, they wouldn’t get respect on the highlight reels. The Catch changed all of this, transforming the 49ers into a dynasty. It’s a moment that will never be repeated again.
Dwight Clark did that.