This weekend the NFL inducts a new crop of Hall of Famers. What follows is my personal 49ers Hall of Fame. A round up of those player and coaches for whom I deeply appreciated happened to become 49ers. While there are numerous choices I stress the word personal because they exemplify not just what I love about the Niners, but why I love football. It is a fan thing, not a stats thing.
The confluence of circumstances that lead to the phenomenal success that we as 49ers fans suckled at for so many years was possible because of the contributions of one of the great offensive line coaches of all time, Bob McKittrick.
For 20 years (1979 to 1999), he coached the offensive line. Three years into his tenure he earned a Super Bowl ring. He is one of only three coaches to have all five of the 49ers' Super Bowl rings. We know that without a consistently successful offensive line we wouldn’t have seen five rings. His leadership and work ethic were renowned. Thanks Bob. (Sorry no picture was available.)
Drafted by the 49ers in the first round in 1994, Bryant Young left the league in 2007 a 49er. His four Pro Bowls are recognition from the league, but his eight Len Eshmont awards are recognition of the 49ers player who best exemplifies inspirational and courageous play. His imprint on the 49ers is deeply profound and I suggest we rename the award the Bryant Young award. All in favor; Aye!
My spirit has soared and my heart has burst watching John Taylor. I’ve named pets after John Taylor. I’ve toasted his magnificence countless times. He is a model citizen of the “act like you’ve been there before” TD reception club. I don’t know if it will ever be en vogue again for WR’s to just act like they’ve been there again, but with every cell in my body I yearn for those days.
All of John’s nine seasons were with the 49ers. His great catch in Super Bowl XXIII was snagged by his 11.2 inch long hands as measured at the 1986 combine (still a record for any receiver to come into the league). Being from Delaware State probably does help keep the ego in check. Thank you John Taylor, you are missed.
Remember the movie Patton; when George C. Scott declares that it’s a soldier’s job to make the other guy die for his country? Charles Haley was Patton’s kind of guy.
He breathed fire, moved mountains, and swatted the lesser beings whom found themselves holding a pigskin in his presence. My heart pounds remembering the violent explosion of mayhem that shot off the D-line into the heart of opposing teams. Charles was the rock, the roll, and the lightening. He brought the messianic damnation of hell on every OT he faced.
I’m willing to forget that he was at one time a player for some unmentionable team from Texas. He saw five Super Bowls, five Pro Bowls, and over 100 sacks in his career.
He had a great approach to the public. Charles would occasionally show up at my health club in the off season back in the day and he was terrific to everyone. He had a smile that went on forever. I appreciated his passion. Charles was a great 49er.
I had the personal good fortune to see Dwight run across the back of the end zone, ascend over Wesley Walls, and enter history in person.
Dwight’s two Pro Bowls, 48 touchdowns, magnificent ’81 season, and “The Catch” alone are not indicative of his emotional impact on 49ers fandom. When he pulled down that last touchdown pass in 1987, I felt a little lump in my throat.
The greatest receiving full back of all time, Roger Craig never lost his Corn Husker running style. His knees were pistons and his hands were spider webs. He was the first running back to surpass 1,000 yards receiving and a 1,000 yards rushing in a single season. His 66 touchdowns and three Super Bowls spanned the richest years of the franchise. Roger Craig is the only running back so far to lead the NFL in receptions for a single season.
His goal line stop in Super Bowl XVI was the best thing I’ve seen on TV that didn’t feature nudity. Cincinnati’s QB, Anderson passed to Charles Alexander in the flat on a critical third down play and Mr. Bunz came up fast, grabbed him by the waste, and flung him backward. Had Danny gone low, Alexander’s momentum would have propelled him over the goal line. It was a thing of beauty.
(Sorry, no picture of Dan Bunz was available.)
From 1979 to 1987 Dwaine held down the DE position for the 49ers. Dwaine loved the fans. When the crowd rushed the field after the ’82 NFC championship victory, some players ran from the mob, not Dwaine. With his arms extended from his shoulders and his hands turned toward the heavens, he waded through the ecstatic crowd. People’s heads didn’t even reach his armpits. He just towered over the swarm of elated fans. Dwaine also came back and coached when the team won Super Bowl XXIX.
One of the hardest hitting safeties of his day, Jeff Fuller was a leader on and off the field. A member of two Super Bowl teams (XIX and XXII), Jeff’s career was ended after a vicious hit resulted in a spinal injury in October, 1989. Today Jeff can walk, but he is no longer has the use of one of his arms. Jeff was a great 49er.