Dwight Clark

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Dwight Clark
No. 87
Position: Wide receiver / tight end
Personal information
Born: (1957-01-08)January 8, 1957
Kinston, North Carolina
Died: June 4, 2018(2018-06-04) (aged 61)
Whitefish, Montana
Height: 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)
Weight: 212 lb (96 kg)
Career information
High school: Charlotte (NC) Garinger
College: Clemson
NFL Draft: 1979 / Round: 10 / Pick: 249
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Receptions: 506
Receiving yards: 6,750
Receiving TDs: 48
Rushing yards: 50
Games played: 134
Games started: 97
Player stats at NFL.com
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,[1][2] 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.[3][4] 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.[5] He served as the general manager of the 49ers in 1998 and in the same capacity with the Cleveland Browns from 1998 to 2002.

Early years[edit]

Born on January 8, 1957, in Kinston, North Carolina,[6] Clark graduated from Garinger High School in Charlotte, where he played quarterback.[7][8] 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.[9][10]

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.[11] 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;[9] throughout college he only had 33 catches for 571 yards, 3 touchdowns and a 17.3-yard average (seventh in school history).[11] Unheralded as a collegian playing alongside wide receiver Jerry Butler, Clark felt fortunate to get to the NFL.[12]

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.

Professional career[edit]

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.[13] 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.[3][7][14]

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.[15] Sports Illustrated writer Paul Zimmerman named Clark his Player of the Year for 1982.[16] The 49ers were 2–14 in 1978 and had the same record in 1979.[17]

The Catch[edit]

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.[3][4] That play, one of the most famous in the history of the NFL, has been immortalized as "The Catch".[18] Clark finished the game with eight receptions for 120 yards and two touchdowns.[19] 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."[20] 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.[11]

Retirement and legacy[edit]

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.[21] 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.[22] 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.[23]

Clark was the lead role in the 1993 direct-to-video comedy Kindergarten Ninja.[24] 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.”[25]

Personal life[edit]

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.[26] He had three children with Stone: a daughter, Casey, and two sons, Riley and Mac.[15][27]

Clark married Kelly Radzikowski in 2011.[20] They moved to Santa Cruz.[11] On March 19, 2017, Clark announced that he had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.[28] He stated that he believed he developed ALS as a result of playing football; he suffered three concussions during his playing career.[29] "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."[18]

Clark died of the disease on June 4, 2018.[30][31] At the time of his death, Clark lived in Whitefish, Montana, with his wife Kelly.[32] He was the father-in-law of former NHL defenseman Peter Harrold.[33] Clark had a close friendship with former 49ers owner Edward J. DeBartolo Jr.[2] 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.[20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Branch, Eric (June 4, 2018). "49er great Dwight Clark — receiver who made The Catch — dies at 61". San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco: Hearst Corporation. Retrieved June 5, 2018. 
  2. ^ a b Ballard, Chris (May 2, 2018). "The last huddle". Sports Illustrated. New York City: Meredith Corporation. Retrieved June 5, 2018. 
  3. ^ a b c Zimmerman, Paul (January 18, 1982). "Off on the wrong foot". Sports Illustrated. New York City: Meredith Corporation. p. 18. Retrieved June 5, 2018. 
  4. ^ a b Associated Press (January 11, 1982). "Clark's catch caps comeback". The Spokesman-Review. Spokane, Washington: Cowles Company. p. 15. Retrieved June 5, 2018. 
  5. ^ "NFL Nation". ESPN.com. United States: ESPN Inc. July 11, 2014. Retrieved March 20, 2017. 
  6. ^ News services and staff reports (June 5, 2018). "Dwight Clark, San Francisco 49ers receiver who made 'The Catch,' dies at 61". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C.: WP Company and Nash Holdings. Retrieved June 5, 2018. 
  7. ^ a b Fowler, Scott (June 4, 2018). "One of Charlotte's greatest pro athletes has died". Charlotte Observer. (North Carolina): The McClatchy Company. Retrieved June 5, 2018. 
  8. ^ Brown, Daniel (June 4, 2018). "Dwight Clark, 49ers receiver of The Catch, dead at 61". East Bay Daily News. Berkeley, California: MediaNews Group. Retrieved June 5, 2018. 
  9. ^ a b "Former Clemson great Dwight Clark passes". Clemson Tigers football. Clemson, South Carolina: Clemson Tigers. June 4, 2018. Retrieved June 4, 2018. 
  10. ^ Connolly, Matt (June 4, 2018). "Dwight Clark of Clemson football, 49ers fame dies from ALS". The State. Columbia, South Carolina: The McClatchy Company. Retrieved June 5, 2018. 
  11. ^ a b c d Goldstein, Richard (June 5, 2018). "Dwight Clark, 61, Dies; Made a Touchdown Catch for the Ages". The New York Times. New York City: The New York Times Company. Retrieved June 6, 2018. 
  12. ^ Lupica, Mike (January 18, 1985). "The Catch Looms Larger Than Life". New York Daily News. New York City: Tronc, Inc. Boca Raton News. p. 5C. Retrieved June 5, 2018. 
  13. ^ Cohn, Lowell (June 4, 2018). "Illness robbed us of Dwight Clark, but not of his spirit". The Press Democrat. Santa Rosa, California: Sonoma Media Investments. Retrieved June 5, 2018. 
  14. ^ McDonald, Jerry (October 28, 2016). "49ers flashback: 1979 team was dreadful despite Walsh, Montana, O.J. and Al Cowlings". The Mercury News. San Jose, California: Digital First Media. Retrieved June 7, 2018. 
  15. ^ a b "Dwight Clark Stats". Pro-Football-Reference.com. United States: Sports Reference. Retrieved March 20, 2017. 
  16. ^ Murphy, Austin (January 10, 1983). "The Cream Of A Sour Season". Sports Illustrated. United States: Meredith Corporation. Retrieved March 20, 2017. 
  17. ^ Brown, Daniel (October 23, 2017). "49ers icon Dwight Clark: 'I need your prayers and thoughts'". The Mercury News. San Jose, California: Digital First Media. Retrieved June 5, 2018. 
  18. ^ a b Middlehurst-Schwartz, Michael (June 4, 2018). "Dwight Clark, 49ers great famous for 'The Catch,' dies at 61 from ALS". USA Today. McLean, Virginia: Gannett Company. Retrieved June 5, 2018. 
  19. ^ "NFC Championship – Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers – January 10th, 1982". Pro-Football-Reference.com. United States: Sports Reference. Retrieved June 5, 2018. 
  20. ^ a b c Maiocco, Matt (June 4, 2018). "49ers legend Dwight Clark, 61, dies of ALS". NBC Sports. Stamford, Connecticut: NBC Sports Group. Retrieved June 5, 2018. 
  21. ^ Swan, Gary (December 15, 1997). "The 8th 49er to Have His Number Retired". San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco: Hearst Corporation. Retrieved June 5, 2018. 
  22. ^ Cabot, Mary Kay (June 4, 2018). "Former Browns GM Dwight Clark dies after battle with ALS". Cleveland.com. Cleveland: Advance Publications (Newhouse Newspapers). Retrieved June 5, 2018. 
  23. ^ "Dwight Clark leaving Browns". The Blade. Toledo, Ohio: Block Communications. May 14, 2002. Retrieved June 5, 2018. 
  24. ^ "Kindergarten Ninja (1993)". Rotten Tomatoes. United States: Fandango Media. Retrieved June 5, 2018. 
  25. ^ Lynch, Kevin (December 18, 2013). "Dwight Clark: Leaving Candlestick Park is "bittersweet" – Niner Insider". San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco: Hearst Corporation. Retrieved March 20, 2017. 
  26. ^ Farber, Nancy (January 21, 1985). "San Francisco's Top Receiver Dwight Clark, Thinks His Best Catch May Be His Wife, Ashley". People. United States: Meredith Corporation. Retrieved June 5, 2018. 
  27. ^ "The Catch looms larger than life". Boca Raton News. Boca Raton, Florida: South Florida Media Company. January 18, 1985. Retrieved February 15, 2011. 
  28. ^ Mano, Daniel (March 19, 2017). "49ers legend Dwight Clark announces ALS diagnosis". The Mercury News. San Jose, California: Digital First Media. Retrieved October 24, 2017. 
  29. ^ Maiocco, Matt (February 27, 2018). "Dwight Clark stands by his statement that playing football gave him ALS". NBC Sports. Stamford, Connecticut: NBC Sports Group. Retrieved June 5, 2018. 
  30. ^ Brown, Daniel (June 4, 2018). "Dwight Clark, former 49ers wide receiver, dead at 61". The Mercury News. San Jose, California: Digital First Media. Retrieved June 4, 2018. 
  31. ^ Reed, Jesse (June 4, 2018). "Kelly Clark announces Dwight Clark has passed away". MSN. United States: Microsoft. Retrieved June 4, 2018. 
  32. ^ Killion, Ann (June 4, 2014). "Dwight Clark's death leaves a void in San Francisco's heart". San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco: Hearst Corporation. Retrieved June 5, 2018. 
  33. ^ 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. 

External links[edit]