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.