Merton Hanks, ladies and gentlemen.
“Childhood” is a relative time when it comes to San Francisco 49ers jerseys you likely rocked during your formative upbringing.
But when we involve the 49ers in any discussion of childhood times, formative years or the downright old school era, there’s no denying the triumph that fans reveled in during the '80s and late '90s.
The Red and Gold went to the playoffs 12 times and proudly brought home five Vince Lombardi trophies after securing wins in Super Bowls XVI, XIX, XXIII, XXIV and XXIX from 1981 to 1994. Fans of the Bengals (twice), Dolphins, Broncos and Chargers suffered while the 49er Faithful basked in the utter championship glory.
And said glory certainly included donning one’s favorite torso apparel with a 49ers player tagged on the back in white letters.
In the interest of brevity, let’s contain this otherwise endless list to 10 legendary jerseys of players with All-Pro, Pro Bowl and Super Bowl honors.
One Hard Hitting, One Eccentric Defensive Back
Depending on whether you wanted to cry or laugh, Ronnie Lott and Merton Hanks both had a style of gridiron play that covered the gamut of emotions.
Lott was one of the greatest 49ers of all time with his six All-Pro selections, 10 Pro Bowls and four Super Bowl titles to his name. The NFL honored No. 42 with a Hall of Fame induction in 2000.
What made Lott special was his sheer ballhawking and playmaking abilities from the defensive secondary. His 51 interceptions and five touchdowns were matched only by his status as one of the fiercest and toughest players in NFL history.
He absolutely planted opposing ball-carriers into the dirt and even removed a portion of his pinkie to ensure his continued harassment of the opposition for years to come.
Hanks produced an uneventful opening season before establishing himself as a playmaking and interception machine for San Francisco. He picked off seven passes during the Super Bowl-winning season in 1994 and finished his 49ers career with 31 interceptions and five total defensive touchdowns.
No. 36 cemented his lore with one of the best, most eccentric celebration dances in NFL history.
Equally beautiful and hilarious to the eyes, it was simply dubbed the “Chicken Dance.”
It’s really the only reason why my sister and I still speak to each other.
Go Berserk, Get Sacks
When it came to driving opposing quarterbacks into the gridiron back in the day, look no further than Fred Dean and Charles Haley.
Dean played in parts of just four-plus years for the 49ers. Yet, that still didn’t stop him from tallying one of the finest season-long performances from the defensive end position in franchise history.
The Hall of Famer notched 17.5 sacks in 1983 in his No. 74 jersey. He earned a well-deserved Pro Bowl nod for his efforts and later won a Super Bowl in 1984.
His awesome beard and deceivingly amicable countenance alone were enough to rock Dean’s jersey during free-dress in Ms. Crabapple’s third grade classroom.
Similar to the previous two players highlighted on this list, Haley arrived soon after Dean left the squad.
Haley immediately made his presence felt with one of the most prolific rookie campaigns in 49ers history. He established a then-rookie record with 12 sacks and added one interception, two fumble recoveries and four forced fumbles.
No. 95 was a complete wrecking ball in the backfield, totaling 66.5 sacks (No. 2 in franchise history) seven fumble recoveries and 14 forced fumbles in his eight years with the Red and Gold.
It’s an absolute travesty that the only five-time Super Bowl champion in NFL history has missed out on the Hall of Fame for the past four years. Haley remains a 49ers all-timer.
Iconic Moments, Three-Time SB Champs, Single-Season Domination
In the same order that the above title conveys, Dwight Clark, Roger Craig, John Taylor and Steve Young have achieved some of finest accolades in 49ers history.
Clark produced “The Catch” in the 1981 NFC Championship Game against the rival Dallas Cowboys. It won the game, propelled the 49ers to their first Super Bowl title and is widely regarded as one of the most iconic moments in NFL history.
He grabbed a Pro Bowl nomination that year, Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors one season later and won his second Super Bowl in 1984. For these reasons, No. 87 Clark jerseys were seen in elementary schools across the nation.
Craig and Taylor took home the Lombardi trophy together in 1988 and 1989 and were participants in six combined 49ers championships. The former long held the franchise mark for career rushing yards until Frank Gore recently supplanted him.
Taylor, meanwhile, was as captivating a returner and downfield threat as there was in the game during most of his playing career. He also produced a certain game-winning catch.
You were simply missing out if you didn’t sport a No. 33 or No. 82 jersey as a wee tyke.
Hall of Famer Steve Young is one of the all-time class acts in pro football. He’s also a Super Bowl record-holder and one of the most celebrated regular season quarterbacks in league history.
Young led the NFL in completion percentage, touchdown passes, both touchdown and interception percentage and passer rating in a combined 20 seasons. That doesn’t account for the seven years in which he was tops in either yards gained per attempt and passing yards per game.
Oh, and he also racked up 4,239 rushing yards and 43 rushing touchdowns from the quarterback position.
He may have finished his career in 1999, but I for one was definitely rocking his No. 8 jersey back in my old school days.
Greatest. Of. All. Time.
Joe Montana and Jerry Rice—is there really any need for further explanation?
These two are the undisputed Greatest of All Time at their respective positions. Some unruly naysayers may question Montana in this regard (to no avail, of course), but Rice is known the world-over as the G.O.A.T.
These Hall of Famers have a collective 13 first-team All-Pro selections, 21 Pro Bowl awards and seven Super Bowl championships. Each own five different all-time Super Bowl records to boot.
If nothing else, 49ers fans across the world donned No. 16 Montana jerseys for his unmatched winning pedigree, while No. 80 Rice jersey proliferation was the result of the NFL’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.
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