Dwight Clark, former 49ers wide receiver, dead at 61

Former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Dwight Clark is honored at halftime of an NFL football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Atlanta Falcons in San Francisco, Monday, Dec. 23, 2013. Clark stands near the spot where he made a catch so famous it is referred to as “The Catch.” (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

The man who made “The Catch,” which launched the 49ers’ Super Bowl years of glory, died of ALS on Monday.

Dwight Clark, who was 61, played nine years for the team, won two Super Bowl championships and was on the receiving end of the last-minute touchdown pass from Joe Montana that beat the Dallas Cowboys and sent the 49ers to their first Super Bowl in 1982.

Clark announced on Twitter in March of 2017 that he had ALS, and said he guessed playing football may have been the cause of the disease. He had been fighting it since September of 2016. Monday afternoon, his wife, Kelly Clark, announced on Twitter that he died at his home in Montana.

“He passed peacefully surrounded many of the people he loved most,” Kelly Clark wrote. “I am thankful for all of Dwight’s friends, teammates and 49ers fans who have sent their love during his battle with ALS.”

Shortly after Clark’s wife revealed the news of his death, the 49ers sent out a written statement: “The San Francisco 49ers family has suffered a tremendous loss today with the passing of Dwight Clark. We extend our condolences and prayers to Dwight’s wife, Kelly, his family, friends and fans, as we join together to mourn the death of one the most beloved figures in 49ers history.

“For almost four decades, he served as a charismatic ambassador for our team and the Bay Area. Dwight’s personality and his sense of humor endeared him to everyone he came into contact with, even during his most trying times. The strength, perseverance and grace with which he battled ALS will long serve as an inspiration to so many. Dwight will always carry a special place in our hearts and his legacy will live on as we continue to battle this terrible disease.”

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This article has 45 Comments

  1. The echoes of The Catch is still being heard over 30 years later.
    It was the legendary Joe Montana who threw the pass, but it was Dwight Clark who seemed to soar above the clouds to make the catch so much greater.
    If there is an invisible universal door that when opened leads to great success, Dwight Clark found it for all to follow and now it’s time for him to rest.

    Thanks for the memories… rest in peace.

    1. One of my favorite Dwight Clark plays was the shake route for a touchdown earlier in that same game. Perfect route running and body English. Had the Cowboys corner back totally turned around.

      1. Brodie,
        I always felt Clarks moves were more like a basketball player than a WR. He was very unique in that way, I believe very strongly that he belongs in the HOF. He will be missed.

  2. http://culturecrossfire.com/sports/football/technique-of-qb-footwork/

    “In the below image taken from 1992, take note of several factors. The first focus should be on the front feet. Take note of the foot’s placement and direction, indicating precisely where Montana is aiming to throw. Lots of quarterbacks, especially younger ones, struggle to aim the lead foot towards their respective receiver which causes throws to be inside or outside of the spot where they are throwing. The other thing to notice is the knee bend of both the front and back knees. This allows Montana the hip torque required in his throwing motion to air the ball deep (or provide more strength/speed on intermediate throws).”

    “Young’s lead foot is aimed towards his intended receiver and both knees are bent to allow a good follow through of the hips. A lot of the quarterback’s arm strength and power comes from hip swivel.”

    1. Great article. Thanks 80.
      I actually think Jimmy has a lot of arm strength but to realize its full strength he needs to clean up his footwork. If he does this, not only will he improve his accuracy but will be able to utilize the power in his hips. By adding hip torque to his throws, his ball velocity could go up exponentially.

      1. I watched some JG videos in between watching Clark videos. Here’s one of Dwight singing with Huey Lewis.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nsui9NdHx8

        But back to JG. Most of the time his knee bend is OK. But sometimes it’s not. Like his footwork, this is correctable. I think he’s a hard worker and will get better with more reps. Part of his problem could be him feeling antsy in the pocket because our OL. But yeah, if he cleans these things up, his arm will look plenty strong.

        1. I would agree with that. His knee bend doesnt really appear to be a big problem from what I have seen. His biggest issue is his foot placement. This is forgivable on all the off platform plays (which happened a lot thanks to quick penetration given up by the oline) but needs to be cleaned up on those occasions when he does have time.
          He appears like he could be a special player, but also one who will have some maddening plays until he corrects some of his bad habits. That said, if he corrects them he could be a HOF caliber player in this system. Here’s hoping he does.

  3. One of my favorites was a game against Arizona where Clark lined up wide right. There was no cornerback and no safety, they were on about the Cardinal’s 20 and he looked at Montana and shrugged his shoulders, you could see his smile from the upper deck. Easy six, they laughed all the back to the sideline.

    1. Now he can diagram -The Catch, to all his adoring fans in heaven.
      .
      God Bless Kelly, for all her love and selfless devotion. I know it hurts, but she knows Dwight is in a better place.

  4. The Catch – I was living in a barn at the time, a very stabilizing time in my life. Nearing the end of the NFC game I could not help but think how the Cowboys had the Niners number for years. Sitting on the edge of my chair, watching Montana move to his right with three Cowboys hot on his tail. I can remember raising up as the pass was released with those three Cowboys bearing down on Joe and to my astonishment and pure joy Dwight rose above the clouds and latched onto the football and thus came the end of the years of misery of losing and better yet the end of the vise that the Cowboys had over the Niners.

    The Catch just didn’t win a football game, it gave credence to the birth of the WCO. The changing of the game of football, orchestrated by Bill Walsh became immanent, and Joe and Dwight started that process. Some say BB and TB are the GOAT, I say bull, they never changed the game like Walsh with Joe and Dwight leading the way with the magical moment sealed in history of the NFL – THE CATCH.

  5. The Catch is by far my best memory of NFL football. What an amazing and great game to have watched with my father. I was the optimist and my father was the pessimist going into that game because of the experience he had with the Dallas comebacks against the 49ers in the 70’s. I was really too young to have a lasting memory over the Dallas heartbreak games in the early 70s. I was in middle school at the time of the 81 Championship game. We watched the game with some of my Dad’s friends. When Dwight caught that ball I think I jumped so high I hit my head on the ceiling. Everybody was hugging and high fiving and screaming. That memory is burned into my brain forever. Then after The Catch no one could sit down until the 49ers sealed the win on the recovery of the Danny White fumble.

    Thanks for the memories Dwight Clark. RIP

  6. One great football player .
    And one hell of a great man .
    Always gave 100 percent .
    Didn’t matter if it was on the field or off / with his family, or his team.

    You always got Dwight Clark .
    Right from the hip ,
    I say thank you for all the memories , the work , and the love. You will be missed greatly ,my friend . But you will never be forgotten . To the imortal , To the catch , To Dwight Clark .

    You will never be forgotten .

  7. In ‘81-82 I was living in Cupertino and working as a recording engineer. That Sunday a client had booked studio time at 7PM. Naturally I had to keep him waiting. I would have gladly lost that job as WE ARE GOING TO THE SUPERBOWL because of Dwight’s catch!

    Just as Jerry West’s outline is the “official “ NBA logo, the NFL needs to ditch the shield and make a representation of The Catch as their symbol. Make it happen Goodell!

  8. Grant,
    You should post your fathers article in todays PD here. Your Dad is always at his best when he puts his cynicism away and wears his heart on his sleeve.

  9. Thank you Grant and please thank your Dad for his article, both articles were well written and by the heart which I like. I am in engrossed over many thoughts about Dwight memories of lost loved one.. puts into prospective how short lif is and what is truly important.

  10. When I think of DC, the 1st image I get is of him laughing with teammates.
    As folks share about Dwight’s last year, it’s apparent that Eddie D. is still stepping up for his guys.

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