|Position:||Wide receiver / tight end|
January 8, 1957|
Kinston, North Carolina
June 4, 2018 (aged 61)|
|Height:||6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)|
|Weight:||212 lb (96 kg)|
|High school:||Charlotte (NC) Garinger|
|NFL Draft:||1979 / Round: 10 / Pick: 249|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
|Player stats at PFR|
Dwight Edward Clark (January 8, 1957 – June 4, 2018) was an American football wide receiver / tight end and executive. He played nine seasons for the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League (NFL) from 1979 to 1987, which included San Francisco's first two Super Bowl championship teams.
He caught the winning touchdown pass thrown by quarterback Joe Montana in the NFC Championship Game in January 1982 against the Dallas Cowboys. The play, immortalized as "The Catch", propelled the 49ers to their first Super Bowl championship. Clark played college football at Clemson University and was selected by the 49ers in the tenth round of the 1979 NFL Draft. He served as the general manager of the 49ers in 1998 and in the same capacity with the Cleveland Browns from 1998 to 2002.
Born on January 8, 1957, in Kinston, North Carolina, Clark graduated from Garinger High School in Charlotte, where he played quarterback. Clark talked about how he was nervous playing quarterback in high school. At 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m), his first love was basketball, but he accepted a scholarship to play college football at Clemson University.
Clemson coaches tried to convert him to a defensive back. As a sophomore, he was named the starter at strong safety, but he disliked the position and left school to go back to his hometown in Charlotte instead. He was unhappy and considered transferring to play basketball at Appalachian State University, until he was finally allowed to play offense. After returning to the team, he was a backup wide receiver and finished with 5 receptions for 99 yards and a 19.8-yard average.
As a junior, he was named a starter at wide receiver and was part of the team that qualified Clemson to the Gator Bowl, its first bowl game in 18 years. He was third on the team with 17 receptions for 265 yards and one touchdown.
In his senior season in 1978, the Tigers were 11–1, won the Gator Bowl over Ohio State, and finished sixth in the final AP poll. He was second on the team with 11 receptions for 207 yards and 2 touchdowns, including a career-high 68-yard touchdown catch against the University of Maryland that helped the Tigers win the ACC Championship.
At Clemson, he wore #30 and originally played strong safety; throughout college he only had 33 catches for 571 yards, 3 touchdowns and a 17.3-yard average (seventh in school history). Unheralded as a collegian playing alongside wide receiver Jerry Butler, Clark felt fortunate to get to the NFL.
In 1988, he was inducted into the Clemson athletic Hall of Fame. In 2018, he was inducted into the South Carolina Football Hall of Fame.
The San Francisco 49ers selected Clark with the first pick of the tenth round of the 1979 NFL Draft, even though some people in the organization questioned the selection at the time, considering he was seen as an undrafted free agent. New head coach Bill Walsh had visited Clemson to scout quarterback Steve Fuller. When the 49er contingent arrived on campus, Clark answered the phone by chance on his way out to play golf and was convinced to participate as Fuller's pass catcher at the workout, where Walsh was impressed with his receiving skills.
Clark tallied 506 catches for 6,750 yards and 48 touchdowns, along with 50 rushing yards in his nine NFL seasons with the 49ers. He led the NFL in receptions (60) during the strike-shortened 1982 season and made the Pro Bowl twice, in 1981 and 1982. Sports Illustrated writer Paul Zimmerman named Clark his Player of the Year for 1982. The 49ers were 2–14 in 1978 and had the same record in 1979.
In the 1981 NFC Playoffs, on January 10, 1982, against the Dallas Cowboys, the 49ers trailed 27–21 with 58 seconds to play. On 3rd-and-3, Clark leaped and caught a 6-yard pass from quarterback Joe Montana in the back of the end zone to tie the score, and Ray Wersching's extra-point kick advanced the 49ers to Super Bowl XVI. That play, one of the most famous in the history of the NFL, has been immortalized as "The Catch". Clark finished the game with eight receptions for 120 yards and two touchdowns. During the 1981 season, Walsh had Montana practice that part of the play back in training camp. Montana said, "We'd never thrown the ball to Dwight on that play, at all." In the early 1990s, Clark’s catch had become the most requested clip in the archives of NFL Films, which was charging up to $5,000 for its use.
Retirement and legacy
After nine seasons with the 49ers, Clark retired following the 1987 season. He was a member of two Super Bowl-winning teams (XVI and XIX). To honor his contribution to 49ers, the club retired his #87 in 1988. He served as a team executive for the 49ers and was the General Manager and Director of Football Operations for the Cleveland Browns from 1999–2002. On May 14, 2002, he resigned from his position with the Browns after new head coach Butch Davis requested the right to make personnel decisions.
Clark was the lead role in the 1993 direct-to-video comedy Kindergarten Ninja. He also appeared in the video game All-Pro Football 2K8. He joined Comcast SportsNet Bay Area in 2011 as an analyst for 49ers Postgame Live. In retirement, Clark expressed remorse about the end of Candlestick Park, saying that “It was a dump [but] it was our dump, so we could talk bad about it, but we didn’t want anybody else to talk bad about it.”
Clark dated Miss Universe Shawn Weatherly from 1980 to 1982. He married Ashley Stone during the 1983 Labor Day weekend and later divorced. Clark met Stone during the summer of 1982 in Myrtle Beach. He had three children with Stone: a daughter, Casey, and two sons, Riley and Mac.
Clark married Kelly Radzikowski in 2011. They moved to Santa Cruz. On March 19, 2017, Clark announced that he had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. He stated that he believed he developed ALS as a result of playing football; he suffered three concussions during his playing career. "I’ve been asked if playing football caused this," Clark wrote. "I don’t know for sure. But I certainly suspect it did. And I encourage the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) and the NFL to continue working together in their efforts to make the game of football safer, especially as it relates to head trauma."
Clark died of the disease on June 4, 2018. At the time of his death, Clark lived in Whitefish, Montana, with his wife Kelly. He was the father-in-law of former NHL defenseman Peter Harrold. Clark had a close friendship with former 49ers owner Edward J. DeBartolo Jr. DeBartolo sent Clark to Japan in 2017 to bring back a three-month supply of the drug Radicava before it became available in the United States.
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- Dougherty, Pete (October 14, 2011). "Promise of more game time lures defenseman to Devils". Times Union. Colonie, New York: Hearst Communications. Retrieved April 28, 2014.