Former 49ers running back and Pro Football Hall of Famer Hugh McElhenny died last week due to natural causes at the age of 93.
The 49ers selected McElhenny with the ninth overall pick in the 1952 NFL Draft, and it didn’t take long for him to make an impact. In his first year in the league, McElhenny led the NFL with a stunning 7.0 yards per carry and gained 1,051 yards from scrimmage to earn a first-team All-Pro selection.
Known for his speed, elusiveness and field vision, McElhenny was called, “The King,” and formed the Million Dollar Backfield with quarterback Y. A. Tittle, halfback John Henry Johnson and fullback Joe Perry. Full disclosure, the nickname had more to do with the quality of the players than their combined salaries. Johnson himself once joked in 1987 that he was, “still looking for the million.” Still, it was accurate, as all four members would go on to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
McElhenny’s 49ers career came to an end after he was selected by the newly formed Minnesota Vikings in the 1961 expansion draft. He would also go on to play for the Giants and Lions before retiring following the 1964 season.
Up to that point, McElhenny had amassed the third most all-purpose yards of any player in NFL history. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1970 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1981.
McElhenny went on to serve as a commentator on 49ers radio broadcasts from 1966 to 1972, and the team retired his number 39 jersey in 1971.