Top 5 Most Athletic San Francisco 49ers of All Time

Matthew Yazo@@matthewyazoContributor IMarch 6, 2012

Top 5 Most Athletic San Francisco 49ers of All Time

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    How does one go about comprising a list of the most "athletic 49ers of all time?"

    Where does it all begin?

    How does some couch potato armchair, Monday morning quarterback, wannabe like myself even come close to judging the subtle differences between athletes?

    I'll fully admit that there is some rhyme and reason to this list but not much.

    I tried my best to focus on players who had played multiple positions and or, two sports.

    I'm sure in the 50-plus year history of the San Francisco 49ers, I've missed a few... so please, feel free to clue me in and share your thoughts.

    After much research, this is the group I came up with in the best ascending order as possible.

Primetime Brings Home a Ring

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    He waltzed into town like something out of a Wild West movie.  He won a ring and then he split.

    Sure, he was only a 49er for half a season, but he fits the criterion for a multiple-sport athlete. Although ol' worry-wort George didn't want him returning kicks and punts, he could've done that as well.

    I may not sleep tonight knowing that this spot could've and probably should've been for the GOAT, Jerry Rice, but I'll spark some controversy in my own heart by announcing that Deion Sanders makes the cut over others.

    He also played baseball for the SF Giants, which if you recall, felt like more of an attempt to keep him a 49er.

    It was a bad breakup though as he promised 49ers upon his inevitable leaving town that he WOULD NOT go to the Dallas Cowboys.  

    And that's exactly what he did.

    There's a bitterness in me still to this day... but regardless, although he was the laziest tackler of all time, he was one of the best athletes ever to wear an NFL uniform. For a brief and meaningful moment, that uniform was the 49ers'.

Steve Young Ran Before Running Was Cool

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    Remember that time when a "running QB" was a bad thing?

    Before Mick Vick and even "Steamin' Willie Beaman?"

    It's well documented and well remembered how the Faithful whipped their future Hall of Famer and now elder statesmen of their beloved franchise.

    This moment, the famous Minnesota Run, is a shining example and staunch reminder that Steve Young was actually a running back before he was a quarterback.

    Young was also the unanimous No. 1 overall pick in the 1984 Draft before signing with the L.A. Express.

    Bottom line: Steve Young was one of the greatest athletes to wear a 49er uniform.  He could literally do it all if asked and wanted to... but let's face it, he was a better quarterback than running back at the end of the day.  

    I'm sure he and the rest of us are all fine with that.

RC Owens and the Alley-Oop

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    Roughly 10 years before it was popularized in basketball, RC Owens and Y.A. Tittle invented the "Alley-oop."

    The Alley-oop was basically a version of the Hail Mary pass but Owens and Tittle brought a graceful timing to it that even Bill Walsh would've been proud of.

    Owens also played amateur basketball.

    He also used his jumping ability to block field goals by standing by the goal post and swatting away at them.

    Owens has been a long time 49er fan favorite and was involved with the team in an administrative capacity in the 80s and can still be found around games to this day.

John Taylor Could Do It All

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    John Taylor was a kick and punt returner, wide receiver and emergency quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers in the 80s through the 90s.

    Had he been on another team, Taylor surely would've been a No. 1 receiver.

    He was a fan favorite, a coach's favorite and a player's favorite.

    Taylor was a quiet and humble hero who didn't like the press and never complained about not getting the ball.

    We remember him for some big moments—the game winning catch in Super Bowl XXIII, his two 90+ yard catches against the Rams and his three Super Bowl rings.

    At the time, he was well known as the most athletic 49er on the team and certainly ranks up there among the greatest NFL athletes of all time.

    Let's hope that one day the HoF will recognize this too.

The Roar of the Lion

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    The choice to put Leo Nomellini at the top of the list of the most athletic 49ers of all time was the easiest choice of them all.

    Leo Nomellini, aka "The Lion," was the first-ever draft pick for the San Francisco 49ers in 1950 and he went on to play every game for 14 seasons.

    He played both offensive and defensive tackle, was a Pro Bowler 10 times and an all-pro nine times.

    The Lion was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1969 and is still arguably the best defensive tackle in the history of the San Francisco 49ers.

    And although Justin Smith is trying, they just don't make 'em like ol' Leo anymore—an athlete with size, strength, tenacity, durability and heart.