Dwight Clark, the handsome 6-foot-4 receiver who caught 506 passes — 48 of them for touchdowns — during his nine year playing career with the 49ers, has Lou Gehrig’s disease. He is one of the most beloved 49ers of all time, part of the 1981 team that brought home the organization’s first NFL championship, and began an amazing run that resulted in four Super Bowl wins in the 80s.
His story is remarkable, especially when you consider that few expected him to make the team. In fact, he and a skinny guy named Joe Montana tried to hide from the coaches during their first training camp together, because they were always afraid they were about to be cut from the team at any moment.
Prior to yesterday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys, Chronicle sports columnist Ann Killion wrote a wonderful piece about Dwight Clark’s legacy, and his heartbreaking condition. Here is an excerpt:
For most of the past four decades, it seemed that Dwight Clark had been sprinkled with lucky dust. That he had a golden horseshoe stuck somewhere on his body. Over the years, Clark would agreeably acknowledge that life had, indeed, been pretty good to the handsome kid out of Kinston, N.C.
But life has abruptly reversed course.
Clark, who will be honored on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium, is suffering one of the cruelest fates of the human condition. He revealed last spring that he had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — Lou Gehrig’s disease.
His condition is deteriorating. The man who became famous for touching the sky as he leaped to catch a touchdown pass is confined to a wheelchair.
It is heartbreaking. A reminder that no one is immune from the ravages of disease and physical disability.
There is precious little magic around the 49ers these days. Sunday, when the 49ers take on the Cowboys — a matchup forever changed by Clark’s catch — there will be reflections on that most idyllic, Camelot-like, of times for the team.
To read the entire column, please click here.