Joe-Pinions: Sports

R.I.P. Dwight Clark

Posted in Football (NFL) by txtmstrjoe on 05/06/2018

Whether or not you’re a football fan – whether or not you’re a San Francisco 49ers fan – there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that you’ve seen the highlight.

Joe Montana is rolling to his right, while a bunch of Dallas Cowboys pass rushers is in hot pursuit. With each frame of film the distance between Joe and the pass rush shrinks.

The camera then follows the ball, and you don’t see what happens to Montana. That ball stays aloft for an interminable time, it seems, when, from out of frame, a 49er wearing #87 leaps and snatches it out of the air. As he lands near the far-right corner of the end zone, the referee holds aloft both of his arms, signalling a touchdown.

The 49er who made The Catch (as that play would subsequently be known for all eternity), spiked the ball in triumph.

That 49er, #87, was Dwight Clark.

That catch – The Catch – tied the game; the successful point-after-touchdown by Ray Wersching completed the drive that gave birth to one of the NFL’s greatest dynasties.

Dwight Clark was never the fastest, never the quickest, never the strongest, never the most agile of wide receivers.  But there was certainly something outstanding about him that stopwatches or weightlifting reps couldn’t necessarily measure.

The late great Bill Walsh once said of Clark, “Dwight looked good to me. Our scouts told me, ‘Coach, you can get him in free agency’ (after the draft), but I told them, ‘You watch and see – that man is going to be on our team.'”

And so it came to be. Walsh drafted Clark in the tenth (!!!) round of the 1979 NFL Draft. While that factoid is astonishing, even more surprising is that, by the end of his career in 1987, Clark was the San Francisco 49ers’ leader in receptions and receiving yards. Not too shabby for a 10th round draft pick…

After his playing career Clark served in the front office of both the San Francisco 49ers and the Cleveland Browns (the resurrected version thereof).

Dwight Clark was beloved. Immediately after his passing, Twitter was filled with Tweets from fans, media members, and ex-teammates. Everyone whose lives he touched, regardless of the degree or capacity, spoke of his kindness, his sense of humor, and his joie de vivre. One got the sense that Clark was rare among professional athletes.

As for me, I still find myself feeling quite sad a bit more than twenty four hours after I first heard of his passing. I can’t say I knew him, but he was one of my guys. He was a Niner. He was a huge part in one of the most important plays in the history of not just the San Francisco 49ers, but the NFL itself.

Thank you, #87.

Dwight Clark The Catch



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