Former 49ers QB Jesse Freitas Sr. Dies at Age 99; Member of Inaugural SF Team

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMay 19, 2020

MIAMI, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 02: A general view of San Francisco 49ers flags against the Kansas City Chiefs during the third quarter in Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium on February 02, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Jesse Freitas Sr., who played quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers when the franchise made their professional football debut in 1946, died Monday at the age of 99. 

Per Vytas Mazeika of the Mercury NewsFreitas' son, James, said his father died of cancer in his San Diego home.

The 49ers released the following statement Monday on Twitter:

San Francisco 49ers @49ers

The 49ers are saddened to learn of the passing of Jesse Freitas Sr., a QB on our inaugural 1946 team. Freitas later served as the head football coach at Junipero Serra HS & was inducted into the San Mateo County Sports HOF in 1995. We send our deepest condolences to his family. https://t.co/IeDrDaVQCW

Per Mazieka, Freitas was a U.S. Army veteran who earned a Bronze Star for his service during World War II.

In addition, Freitas was the head football coach at Serra High School in San Mateo, California in three stints that covered 17 years between 1950 and 1974. His teams went 102-49-3.

One of his players was his son, Jesse, who went on to lead college football in passing yards at San Diego State in 1973 before playing two years at quarterback for the San Diego Chargers. Another was future Hall of Fame wide receiver and four-time Super Bowl champion Lynn Swann.

As for Freitas Sr., the original 49er was a backup signal-caller on the first-ever team in franchise history. That squad started out in the All-America Football Conference, which disbanded in 1949. The 49ers then jumped ship to the NFL in 1950.

Freitas got a chance to shine as a team's starter in 1948 for the AAFC's Chicago Rockets. He threw 14 touchdown passes and completed 50.3 percent of his attempts for an 8.5-yard average. Freitas played one game for the AAFC's Buffalo Bills in 1949 before his pro career ended.

Freitas was inducted into the San Mateo County Sports Hall of Fame in 1995, per Mazeika.