Billy Wilson, 81, passes away

Billy Wilson, who led the NFL in receptions three times in the 1950s despite playing in the shadow of the 49ers’ famed “Million Dollar Backfield,” died this morning. He was 81.

Wilson was a member of the 49ers organization for more than 30 40 years. After his playing career, he took positions with the club in coaching, scouting and public relations.


“When you look at what Billy accomplished in his 10 years as a 49ers player, it’s quite remarkable,” 49ers owner John and Denise York said in a statement. “Considered as one of the greatest wide receivers to ever play the game, Billy’s impact on the 49ers organization is far-reaching, not only as player, but also as a coach and administrator. We are grateful for all of Billy’s contributions and he will be missed.”


The late Bill Walsh campaigned several years for Wilson‘s enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But Wilson has yet to receive that honor.


When Wilson retired in 1960, only the Packers’ Don Hutson had more receptions. The 49ers had six players from the 1950s elected to the Hall of Fame (Joe Perry, Hugh McElhenny, John Henry Johnson, Y.A. Tittle, Leo Nomellini and Bob St. Clair). Yet, Wilson was the only player on the team who was elected to six consecutive Pro Bowls.


Wilson had experienced some health problems in recent years. He underwent two major surgeries in 2004 after being diagnosed with colon cancer.


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