Dwight Clark – He Leaves the NFL a Better Place

Written by on June 11, 2018




On the TUNNEYSIDE of SPORTS June 11, 2018, #696…Dwight Clark – He Leaves the NFL a Better Place
After further review…This issue is a tribute to Dwight Clark. The below quote is from John Elway, Pro Football Hall of Famer, former Denver Broncos quarterback and now their general manager, who said, “Dwight Clark left the NFL and the world a better place.”
Clark, #87 of the San Francisco Forty-Niners, died on June 4, 2018, of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) a disease, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease – the famed New York Yankee first baseman, who was born in New York and played his entire major league baseball career with the Yankees. Clark’s entire 9-year career was with the 49ers.
ALS is a motor neuron disease in which nerve cells gradually break down and die. Clark’s death was almost 77 years – to the day – of Gehrig’s, whose famous quote on his retirement was “I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” Clark would be in that thinking as well. ALS is still considered “non-curable,” yet for over seven decades noted scientists have been working to find that mysterious cure.
Working for the National Football League for 31 years has provided me with the privilege of being on the field with – you name your NFL favorite player and/or coach and I probably had the honor of knowing him. Clark is among that special group. He did not figure to be selected to play in the NFL, according to him. Hall of fame Coach Bill Walsh  scheduled a work out for Clemson quarterback Steve Fuller and needed a receiver to “catch some of Fuller’s passes.” That receiver was Clark who impressed Walsh. The 49ers drafted Clark in the tenth round of the 1979 NFL draft (#249) – nearly approaching Mr. Irrelevant status (last one drafted).
In Clark’s own words, “I kept my bags packed during my first 49er training camp since I knew  I would surely be cut.” Not only was he not cut, but few #249s endure 9 years in the NFL and leave with one of the great catches of all time. On January 10, 1982, with .58 sec. to play in the NFC championship game, and the score Dallas 27, 49ers 21, Walsh called “Sprint Right Option” [watch the video narrated by Vin Scully] with the pass intended for WR Freddie Solomon. Quarterback Joe Montana rolled right with ” Two-Tall” Ed Jones of the Cowboys, and yours truly as the referee, in pursuit, when Montana launched a desperate pass toward the end zone where #87, closely guarded by Cowboy’s safety Everson Walls, leapt high in the air to provide the winning touchdown, now called “The Catch.”
While this one catch made Clark famous, I know differently – a captivating smile, his kindness to others (even referees), and as 49er teammate Roger Craig put it: “He’s the realest person I’ve ever known.”
Dwight was 61 when he died, and I am among the many who will miss him.
Will you log-in your recollection of “The Catch?”
To contact Jim, go to JimTunney.com or email Jim@JimTunney.com.


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