The 25 Most Electrifying San Francisco 49ers Players of All Time
The San Francisco 49ers have had many electrifying players wear the red and gold.
First, let me describe what I mean by electrifying. It does not necessarily mean the best player, but it does mean a player who was exciting and could get you out of your seat.
An electrifying player was not necessarily a consistent star who played with precise excellence, such as Bryant Young, Brent Jones or Hall of Fame cornerback Jimmy Johnson, but someone who could play with reckless abandon and make your jaw drop with his athleticism.
Let's take a fun look at the top 25 most electrifying stars to wear a 49er uniform. Enjoy!
The following players deserve an honorable mention in our list of most electrifying players.
Frankie Albert played seven seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. The little left-hander, as he was affectionately known, played much bigger than his size. He was 5'10" and weighed 166 pounds.
Albert led the old All American Football Conference in completion percentage in 1946 and 1948. He also threw for a league-leading 29 touchdowns in 1948 and 27 more in 1949. He often thrilled fans with his scrambling and his jump passes.
Running back Delvin Williams earns an honorable mention based on his four exciting years in San Francisco. His best year was in 1976, when he rushed for 1,203 yards. Williams had good speed and ran with a smooth-flowing gait. Williams had a nose for the end zone, as he scored 25 touchdowns as a 49er.
Wide receiver Billy Wilson was one of the most productive receivers during the decade of the '50s, when running the football was more the norm. Wilson led the league in receptions three times and scored 49 touchdowns in his 10-year career with the 49ers. He was also a six-time Pro Bowl selection.
Defensive end Cedric Hardman earns honorable mention accolades based on his outstanding pass-rushing ability. He teamed with Tommy Hart to form a disruptive tandem pressuring the quarterback.
Hardman combined blazing speed and power coming off the end and used those assets to collect 106.5 sacks in his 10 years with the 49ers. He was exciting to watch and was a devastating pass-rusher.
Gene Washington was one of the top wide receivers in the league and I can still remember his acrobatic receptions. He was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and earned three First-Team All-Pro honors.
Washington played nine seasons with the 49ers and caught 371 passes for 6,664 yards. He averaged an incredible 18 yards per catch. This outstanding rate is a testament to his ability to get deep and make the big play.
Paul Hofer earned an honorable mention not because he was a great running back, but because he played with such an incredible passion and energy. Hofer played six seasons with the 49ers and never rushed for more than 615 yards. Few backs hit the hole faster or harder than the intense Hofer.
25) John Brodie
John Brodie was one of the best quarterbacks of his time. He played for the 49ers from 1957-1973. In those 17 seasons, Brodie threw for 31,548 yards and 214 touchdowns.
Brodie could throw the short pass with accuracy and also had the arm strength to throw the long ball. He was a two-time Pro Bowl selection and was the league MVP in 1970.
Brodie completed 2,469 of his 4,491 pass attempts, a career completion rate of 55 percent.
24) Freddie Solomon
Freddie Solomon was a quick, shifty receiver. He played on two of the 49ers' Super Bowl championship teams in 1981 and 1984. Solomon was not the fastest receiver but he had very slick moves and quick feet.
Solomon played eight years in San Francisco and caught 310 passes for 4,873 yards and 43 touchdowns. He was particularly elusive once he caught the ball and was also used to run the ball on reverses.
Solomon was an exciting punt and kickoff return man. He was also the emergency third quarterback in case of injuries to the top two signal-callers.
23) Garrison Hearst
Garrison Hearst played five seasons with the 49ers, from 1997-2003. He had three consecutive seasons rushing for more then 1,000 yards, including a high of 1,570 in 1998.
Hearst was an explosive back running from scrimmage and also as a receiver in the passing game. In 1998, Hearst led the NFL with 5.1 yards per carry and he also had one carry where he ran for 96 yards. Hearst also had an 81-yard catch and run in the passing game.
Hearst had a nose for the end zone. He rushed for 26 touchdowns and also caught seven touchdown passes.
22) Dwight Clark
Dwight Clark would typically not be on this list, as he was a consistent performer on the field. However, one single play earns him a spot.
"The Catch" was arguably the most electrifying and single most important play in 49er history. Clark leaped high and snared the ball with his fingertips, just before it sailed out of the end zone.
Clark's grab enabled the 49ers to defeat their long-time nemesis, the Dallas Cowboys. The 49ers went on to win their first Super Bowl in 1981 and build their legacy of success. All this was made possible by Clark's incredible grab.
21) Tim Harris
Tim Harris was one of the mercenaries the 49ers acquired in order to perpetuate their legacy of success. He played a total of four seasons with the 49ers.
Harris could sometimes be a happy-go-lucky teammate and at other times, he could be extremely surly.
Harris was a pass-rusher extraordinaire and collected an amazing 17 sacks for the 49ers in 1992. He earns his spot on our honor roll of electrifying players based on his incredible season of terrorizing opposing passers.
20) Y.A. Tittle
Y.A. Tittle played quarterback for the 49ers for 10 seasons, from 1951-1960. The "Bald Eagle," as he was affectionately known, led the 49ers' "Million Dollar Backfield" of the 1950s.
This incredible group included Tittle, Hugh McElhenny, Joe Perry and John Henry Johnson, all Hall of Fame players.
Tittle completed 1,226 out of 2,194 passes for the 49ers, a 55.9 percent rate. He threw for 16,016 yards and 108 touchdowns during his tenure in San Francisco.
Tittle is also well known for being the quarterback who threw the famous "alley-oop" passes to R.C. Owens.
He was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, four with the 49ers. He also was a three-time First-Team All-Pro, one of which was with the Niners, in 1957, when he led the league in completion percentage at 63.1
19) R.C. Owens
R.C. "Alley-Oop" Owens played five years for the San Francisco 49ers, from 1957-1961. Owens was taller than most players at 6'3" and he possessed outstanding leaping ability.
Owens teamed with Y.A. Tittle to perfect the alley-oop pass. Tittle would loft the ball up in the end zone and Owens would leap high for the ball and more often than not, come down with it for a touchdown.
The alley-oop pass, made popular by Owens and Tittle, was the precursor of the fade pattern, a pass play that is frequently used down in the end zone in today's NFL.
18) John Henry Johnson
John Henry Johnson was a punishing runner that loved to run over people. The Hall of Fame fullback also had the speed to run away from people once he broke into the clear.
Although Johnson only played three seasons with the 49ers, 1954-56, he teamed with Y.A. Tittle, Joe Perry and Hugh McElhenny to form the famed "Million Dollar Backfield."
As a 49er, Johnson had 228 carries for 1,051 yards, a 4.6 yards per carry average. Johnson also had 12 touchdowns and in 1954 and was a Pro Bowl selection as a 49er.
17) Bruce Taylor
Bruce Taylor spent his entire eight-year career with the San Francisco 49ers. He played cornerback opposite future Hall of Fame member Jimmy Johnson, so he was severely tested in the defensive backfield.
A first-round draft pick in 1970, Taylor held his own and came away with 18 interceptions.
A major asset that Taylor brought to the 49ers was his ability to return punts. He returned a total of 142 punts for 1,323 yards, a 9.3 average. His best season as a return man was in 1973 when he had a 13.8 yards per return average.
16) Frank Gore
Frank Gore has been the heart and soul of the 49er offense for the past six years. He rushed for over 1,000 yards for four consecutive years, from 2006-2009. Gore's best year rushing was for 1,695 yards in 2006.
The two-time Pro Bowl selection has 44 career touchdowns and 6,414 career rushing yards. Gore fashioned many electrifying runs up the middle, bursting into the secondary and taking it to the house for big gainers.
Gore suffered a severe hip injury in 2010 that cut his season short. The 49ers are hoping that Gore can return stronger than ever in 2011.
15) Patrick Willis
Patrick Willis was a first-round draft pick in 2007 and burst onto the scene as the Rookie of the Year. For an inside linebacker to make our list of electrifying players, he must be special and that is Willis.
Willis has four Pro Bowl selections to his credit and has been a three-time First-Team All-Pro.
Willis has an uncanny knack for tracking down an opposing ball-carrier and making punishing tackles. He has made over 100 tackles in each of his four NFL seasons. He has totaled 460 solo tackles with an additional 134 assists.
A tackling machine, Willis always brings high intensity to the 49er defense. He is a team leader and someone that Jim Harbaugh will be counting on.
14) Roger Craig
Roger Craig played for the 49ers for eight seasons from 1983-1990. He was one of the most versatile backs in the game and did so many great things for the 49ers.
As a runner, Craig amassed 7,064 yards in 1,686 carries for the Niners. He also was a major threat out of the backfield in the passing game. As a 49er, Craig caught 508 passes for 4,442 yards, even leading the league with 92 receptions in 1985.
Also an excellent blocker, Craig was reliable in blitz pick-up.
What puts Craig on our list of electrifying players is his unique running style. He ran with a powerful and high leg and knee action. It was always fun to see Craig run through tackles or make tacklers miss with his elusiveness.
13) Wendell Tyler
Wendell Tyler makes our list of electrifying players because of his unique burst and escape ability. He was an exciting runner, sometimes good and sometimes awful, but as a fan, you always held your breath when he had the football.
Tyler came to the 49ers after six years with the Rams. He played four seasons in San Francisco, from 1983-1986. His best year in San Francisco was in 1984 when he rushed for 1,262 yards and seven touchdowns. In all, Tyler scored 23 touchdowns while with the 49ers.
The good Tyler ran with great elusiveness, whereas the bad Tyler had a history of fumbling. In his four years with the 49ers, Tyler had an amazingly high 27 fumbles.
12) Vernon Davis
Vernon Davis is one of the top tight ends in the league. He is a fine blocker and an excellent receiver.
There are few tight ends with Davis' speed and his ability to get deep on pass plays. In 2011, Davis will be in his sixth pro season, all with the 49ers.
Davis has not had a top-flight quarterback to throw him the ball or an offense that featured the passing game. Nevertheless, he has produced and in an exciting way.
Davis had his best year in 2009, when he had 78 receptions for 965 yards and 13 touchdowns. In 2010, proving his ability to get deep down the field, Davis had an average of 16.3 yards per catch.
With Jim Harbaugh planning to install a West Coast-style passing game, Davis should see his production increase.
11) Ricky Watters
Ricky Watters played for the 49ers in his first three NFL seasons. Watters was an outstanding dual-purpose back. He had excellent running ability and he was a very good receiver out of the backfield.
After joining the 49ers in 1992, Watters' electrifying style of play both thrilled and frustrated the 49ers and their fans. Watters' best year was in 1992 when he rushed for 1,013 yards and nine touchdowns. He made the Pro Bowl in all three of his years with the 49ers.
Watters accumulated 2,840 yards rushing and also caught 140 passes for an additional 1,450 yards. He scored 33 touchdowns in his three years in San Francisco.
Watters was a threat to make a big play every time he touched the football. However, like Wendell Tyler, Watters had a tendency to fumble all too often. In his three seasons with the Niners, Watters fumbled 15 times.
10) Joe Perry
Joe "The Jet" Perry was aptly nicknamed. Joe had his tremendous speed and was a member of the fabled "Million Dollar Backfield."
Perry earned inclusion into the top 10 electrifying players. He rushed for 8,689 yards on 1,669 carries, good for an average yards per carry rate of 5.2. Perry was also an excellent receiver out of the backfield, catching 204 passes while in Sam Francisco.
"The Jet" had blazing speed and used it to gain membership into the Hall of Fame. Perry was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and also was a two-time All-Pro First Team.
9) Deion Sanders
Deion Sanders deserves a top-10 inclusion in our list of most electrifying 49ers, even though he only played one season, 1994, in San Francisco. He was the epitome of a lockdown corner and always could be counted on to shut down the opposing team's top receiver.
Sanders was also a threat to score every time he got his hands on the football. As a 49er, Sanders had six interceptions and led the league in return yardage with 303 and three touchdowns. He had a long of 93 yards on one of those interception returns. I can still envision him prancing with his high-stepping into the end zone.
Sanders was so dominant on defense that opposing teams would often simply not throw in his direction. He, in effect, shut down an entire side of the field.
His nicknames also exuded flamboyance, as he was known as "Neon Deion" and also "Prime Time."
8) John Taylor
John Taylor was an electrifying player in many ways. He was an outstanding receiver, made the catch to win Super Bowl XXIII against Cincinnati and also returned punts and kickoffs.
Taylor played for the 49ers from 1987-1995 and was a two-time Pro Bowl selection. He caught 347 passes for 5,598 yards and 43 touchdowns. I can still see him catching a five-to-seven yard slant pass form Joe Montana and taking it the length of the field for a touchdown.
Taylor was the receiver who made the catch in the end zone to cap off the 49ers' magical 92-yard scoring drive in the waning moments of Super Bowl XXIII. The play enabled the 49ers to defeat the Bengals 20-16.
Taylor was also a huge threat in the return game. Punt returns were his specialty and he had 149 returns for 1,517 yards and two touchdowns.
A very quiet, shy, almost reclusive man, Taylor let his play do the talking on the football field.
7) Charles Haley
Charles Haley was a truly dominant defensive lineman. As a pass-rusher, he was indeed electrifying.
Haley played for the 49ers for a total of eight seasons, from 1986-1991 and again in 1998 and '99. He accumulated 66.5 sacks in those eight years, including 16 in 1990.
Haley used both speed and power to get to the opposing quarterback. Haley earned three Pro Bowl selections and was named as an All-Pro in his 1990 season.
He was an outstanding pass-rusher, but also had a surly and bizarre personality, which added to his reputation.
His career in San Francisco did not end well, as he was unhappy with then-49er coach George Seifert. So upset was Haley that he urinated on Seifert's car.
6) Hugh McElhenny
Hugh "The King" McElhenny was an electrifying runner and played for the 49ers from 1952-1960. He was the leading member of the "Million Dollar Backfield" in San Francisco, which included Y.A. Tittle, Joe Perry and John Henry Johnson.
McElhenny thrilled crowds with his rather awkward running style, but it was sure effective. In his nine seasons as a 49er, McElhenny rushed for 4,288 yards and 35 touchdowns on 877 carries.
He was also very effective coming out of the backfield to catch the football. He had 195 receptions for 2,666 yards and 15 more touchdowns.
McElhenny was also an excellent punt and kickoff return man.
As a 49er, McElhenny was a five-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time First-Team All Pro.
5) Terrell Owens
Love him or hate him, Terrell Owens was a fine football player and very entertaining. His antics often got him in trouble, but they were always quite entertaining.
In his eight seasons with the 49ers, Owens caught 592 passes for 8,572 yards and 81 touchdowns. Although he had his share of drops, Owens was also a tremendous runner after he caught the football.
Owens' histrionics as well as his play as a top wide receiver in the game make him deserving of being a top-five member of our list of most electrifying 49ers.
Three plays are prime examples of Owens' electrifying moments. Against the Green Bay Packers, Owens had already dropped three or four passes. With the 49ers trailing and the game winding down, Steve Young hit Owens deep over the middle for the go-ahead touchdown. Owens took a brutal hit but still held onto the football.
I can still hear 49er broadcaster Joe Starkey lose his mind and scream "Owens, Owens, Owens," as he made the winning grab.
Another incident was when Owens scored a touchdown on a nationally televised Monday Night Football game. He reached into his sock and pulled out a Sharpie, autographed the ball and gave it to a fan.
As a 49er, Owens also posed with arms raised in triumph on the Dallas Cowboys' star. This enraged the Cowboys and George Teague charged after him, knocking him down. The display by Owens was totally uncalled for, but again, very entertaining.
4) Ronnie Lott
Ronnie Lott dominated the game from the defensive backfield. He played 10 seasons with the Niners from 1981-1990. Lott was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and five-time All-Pro during his time in San Francisco. Lott was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000.
Lott had 51 interceptions and five touchdowns as a 49er defensive back. However, it was his powerful hits that made him one of the most feared defensive backs of his time. Opposing receivers and ball-carriers tried to stay away from Lott because they knew he would be zeroing in on them to deliver a vicious hit.
What set Lott apart from the average player was his intensity and leadership abilities. At one point, Lott had a part of his finger amputated just so he could play. He continually hounded his teammates to push themselves to better play.
Lott was also a student of the game and could impart his knowledge onto his teammates.
It was exciting to watch Lott patrol the defensive secondary for the 49ers. He changed the game with his bone-jarring hits and intensity. When you watched Lott, you knew you were seeing someone special.
3) Joe Montana
Joe Montana was arguably the single most important person to ever wear a 49er uniform. He could be considered the greatest 49er ever, although he ranks third on our list of most electrifying players.
"Joe Cool" was just that—cool and precise with his passes and command of the game. He was a calm leader, but yet, still authored some of the greatest moments in 49er history.
Montana played for 13 seasons with the 49ers and led them to four Super Bowl victories without a defeat. He was an amazingly accurate passer and had enough mobility to buy time in the pocket or scramble for crucial yards when necessary.
Montana completed 2,929 out of 4,600 passes, an accuracy rate of 63.7. In fact, Montana led the league in completion accuracy five separate times. He also threw 244 touchdown passes and ran for 20 more.
The greatest compliment one can give Montana is that when the game was on the line and he had the ball, you just knew the 49ers would somehow pull out the victory.
With the 49ers, Montana was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time First-Team All-Pro. "Golden Joe" was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000.
2) Steve Young
Although the career of Joe Montana may have been slightly better than that of Steve Young, Young earns the honor of being the more electrifying player. Young played for the 49ers from 1987-1999. He was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time First-Team All-Pro.
Unlike the calm poise that Montana played with, Young played with a reckless abandon that was quite electrifying. He was an excellent runner and was one of the best scrambling quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. It was, however, when he learned to stay more in the pocket that he became a truly great player.
If you want an example of why Young is on this list at No. 2, check out the mad dash he made to the end zone eluding tacklers and stumbling his way to the score in a game against the Vikings in 1988. Then-announcer Lon Simmons went berserk making the call in one of the most exciting plays in NFL history.
As a 49er, Young completed 2,400 out of 3,648 pass attempts, a percentage of 65.8. He threw for 29,907 yards and 221 touchdowns. Young also ran for 3,581 yards and 37 touchdowns on 608 attempts. Although he developed into a very accurate pocket passer, Young also retained the ability to run when necessary. His scrambles and the ability to turn broken plays into gains were uncanny.
Young played with a boundless enthusiasm and passion for the game. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.
1) Jerry Rice
Jerry Rice is our No. 1 most electrifying San Francisco 49er in history. He was an amazing player and quite simply the best wide receiver to ever play the game. There are many who say he was the greatest football player ever.
Rice's records and accomplishments on the field are unmatched. However, perhaps the greatest thing about those achievements was that the bigger the game, the better he performed.
Rice played 16 seasons in San Francisco, followed by a little over three in Oakland and part of another in Seattle. In his career, Rice caught a record 1,549 passes for 22,895 yards and 197 touchdowns. He also ran for another 10 touchdowns, bringing his career total to a record 207.
As a receiver, there was nothing Rice could not do on the football field. Words do not begin to measure the true greatness that is Jerry Rice.
During Rice's 16 years with the 49ers, fans were awestruck at his play. It was a treat to watch greatness and that's what we saw with Rice.
Rice was a 13-time Pro Bowl selection and 10-time First-Team All-Pro. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010.
The 49ers Were Blessed with so Many Great, Electrifying Players
The San Francisco 49ers were blessed with so many great and electrifying players. It was fun to compile this list and it brought back memories of some golden moments as a 49er fan.
The 49ers are a storied franchise and their five Super Bowl victories with no defeats is unmatched in the history of the game. I hope you enjoyed this look at the most electrifying 49ers in history.