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R.C. Owens dies at 78

R.C. Owens, a San Francisco 49ers wide receiver who was best known for pairing with quarterback Y.A. Tittle to invent the “alley-oop” pass into the end zone, has died at the age of 78.

A 14th round draft pick out of Idaho in 1956, Owens spent his first five NFL seasons with the 49ers, and his best year came in 1961, when he caught 55 passes for 1,032 yards and five touchdowns. He later played for the Colts and Giants in the 1960s.

But what Owens is best known for is the alley-oop, a term that was applied to Owens’ catches in football before it was used in basketball: The 6-foot-3 Owens would simply plant himself in the end zone and jump as high as he could, and Tittle would hit him in the end zone. During a discussion of the top receivers in the game today, Jerry Rice said last season that he sees a lot of Owens in Calvin Johnson.

“They used to tell R.C. Owens, ‘Just go to the end zone and jump.’ And that’s what you see from Calvin Johnson,” Rice said.

After retiring from the NFL as a player, Owens worked for the 49ers from 1979 to 2001 in a variety of capacities, including director of training camp and director of alumni relations. He also started a summer reading program that involved more than 10,000 kids. He is survived by his wife, Susan.

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17 Responses to “R.C. Owens dies at 78”
  1. 49erstim says: Jun 18, 2012 9:27 PM

    Aww man. You will be missed R.C.

  2. jameswestphal says: Jun 18, 2012 9:39 PM

    Rest easy.

  3. thegreatgabbert says: Jun 18, 2012 10:02 PM

    In all those years, R.C. and Y.A. never found out what each other’s full names were.

  4. joemontanawasthegreatest says: Jun 18, 2012 10:04 PM

    Good man

  5. thegreatgabbert says: Jun 18, 2012 10:06 PM

    In basketball the play may have been known as an “Alley Oop”, but Y.A. and R.C. just called it an “A.O.”.

  6. thereisfootballwestofjersey says: Jun 18, 2012 10:26 PM

    Represented the West Coast with production, professionalism and pride! A very classy man too. Thanks for the great years with the Red & Gold

  7. discosucs2005 says: Jun 18, 2012 11:05 PM

    My grandpa gave me a hat with Bill Walsh and RC Owens autograph on it. I didn’t realize how good he had been until I looked up who Owens was years later (I was obviously pretty much focused on the Walsh part of the autograph at the time). He was a pretty amazing player for his time, and one of the all time contributors (in a lot of ways apparently) to the 49ers. I hope the team does something to celebrate him this season.

  8. allnightdwight says: Jun 18, 2012 11:13 PM

    Changed the game. R.I.P.

  9. 4t9er says: Jun 18, 2012 11:24 PM

    RIP R.C. Owens

  10. realnflmaster says: Jun 18, 2012 11:26 PM


  11. firstnovaprime says: Jun 18, 2012 11:38 PM

    A good man passes on. His last ally-oop! Rest in
    peace R.C.

  12. tigershark49 says: Jun 18, 2012 11:38 PM

    Go 49ers!

  13. thetylerrose says: Jun 18, 2012 11:58 PM

    “Put a little wobble on it, Colonel”
    Thanks for that line, RC! You will be missed.

  14. pack88 says: Jun 19, 2012 12:17 AM

    They failed to mention RC Owens is the only guy in NFL history to block a FG at the uprights. Was unbelievable- I was about 10 at the time (1963?) and I still am awed by it

  15. 1historian says: Jun 19, 2012 5:54 AM

    He would jump as high as he could but he would eventually come back down to earth.

    Not this time


  16. otistaylor89 says: Jun 19, 2012 7:00 AM

    He wasn’t the only one, but probably the first to block a FG at the uprights (now it’s illegal).

    I find it hard to believe more people don’t know who RC Owens was (or many other late 50’s, early 60’s 49ers). My dad went to a lot of their games and was always talking about the talent they had.

    RIP RC.

  17. nearmintcards says: Jun 19, 2012 3:29 PM

    You really ought to give credit for the images you find on the net, Michael.

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