Dwight Clark, legendary receiver who made “The Catch,” dies at 61

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Dwight Clark, the 49ers star wide receiver who will live in NFL history for making “The Catch,” has died after a battle with ALS. He was 61.

Clark’s wife Kelly wrote on his Twitter account that he died today.

“I’m heartbroken to tell you that today I lost my best friend and husband,” Kelly Clark wrote. “He passed peacefully surrounded by many of the people he loved most. I am thankful for all of Dwight’s friends, teammates and 49ers fans who have sent their love during his battle with ALS.”

Although he wasn’t a star in college at Clemson, 49ers coach Bill Walsh saw something in Clark and selected him in the 10th round of the 1979 NFL draft. After playing sparingly as a rookie, Clark burst onto the scene in 1980, finishing third in the NFL with 82 catches.

And then in the 1981 season, Clark was even better, culminating in the NFC Championship Game, when, with the 49ers trailing the Cowboys 27-21 in the final minute, Joe Montana lobbed a high pass into the back of the end zone, where Clark leapt into the air and caught it for the touchdown that would send the 49ers to the Super Bowl. That play has been dubbed “The Catch,” and remains among the great plays in NFL history.

Clark retired after the 1987 season, and worked in football operations, both with the 49ers and with the Browns. He announced last year that he was battling ALS, and today the disease took his life. But Clark’s legacy, and his great Catch, will live on.

78 responses to “Dwight Clark, legendary receiver who made “The Catch,” dies at 61

  1. 49er legend so sad to hear this. I was too young to watch him play,but i seen the film. He was a beast, rest easy sir.

  2. Wow. Really unfortunate. A prominent part of the early years of the ’80s 49ers’ success and seemed like a really good guy. RIP.

  3. “The Catch” will out live all of us. Peaceful travels to Dwight and his Family.

  4. This Raider fan has MUCH respect for Mr. Clark who was an inspiration to many in football.

    My heartfelt prayers are with his family.

  5. Sad day in the NFL family. It’s players like DC that made football what it is today.

  6. When men were men, No Diva here boys. He respected the game and I loved watching him play. Very sad deal but the true 49er patriarch (Eddie) stepped up and gave him one last reminder of his place in 49er history the love they-we have for him

  7. When I reflect on most memorable plays in the NFL during my lifetime, that catch is and will always be one of my favorite all time plays. My condolences to the Clark family!

  8. The greatest play of all time. You’ll live forever in the memories of 49er fans. RIP.

  9. As a Packer fan & dedicated follower or the NFL for 45+ years, “the Catch” is one of the most memorable plays I ever saw. I just watched a replay of it, probably the 500th time I have seen it, and it still gave me chills! Best thoughts to Mr. Clark’s family and friends.

  10. That was so fast. What an awesome guy. Will never forget him. Sad day as 49ers fan.

  11. A very very close friend of mine on my officiating crew passed away at 59 from this horrible disease and was followed by his 24;yearnold son two years later from the same thing. Pete Frates ( famous for his work and incredible courage in battling this) went to high school right up the street and played at my alma mater. wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. Rest in Peace dwight clark free from pain. So sad

  12. I remember watching that game and. Chatting it up with some girl who I went to High school with. I was a Dallas hater and she, well she moved to Dallas a few years later. I’m kinda glad it didn’t work out for us. Damn I feel OLD. RIP Mr Clark, you were amazing

  13. He broke my heart with that catch against my beloved Cowboys. It was a heck of a play and he was a heck of a player. RIP Dwight.

  14. Players should fight to take care of trailblazers like #87 and worry about CTE, not Colin K. Owners mourning all the way to the bank.

  15. The Catch. Yeah, there are lots of things with names like that. But this one earned it, and will forever be The Catch.

    RIP, Dwight.

  16. The Niners used to hold training camp at a junior college a few miles from my house. In those days you could just walk up and watch them practice through a chain link fence. We never asked for autographs because we are Raider fans, but we were close enough to talk to the players. Some guys wouldn’t talk, but Hercules always did. Rest in peace, Mr. Clark.

  17. Im not a Niner fan but the highlight of “The Catch” never gets old. That guy was total class

  18. His career spanned through my younger years, but I can tell you I haven’t met any player more gracious and kind. Rest i. Oeace to a great player and a great man. Sad day for the 49ers and NFL alike

  19. It seems like everybody probably remembers where they were when that catch was made, just over the outstretched, flailing arms of Everson Walls.

    It’s one of those great moments that resonates with every true football fan. Even a Packers fan.
    Glad he’s finally found some peace from what is a horrible disease.

  20. I didnt even know he was sick. My gosh. I vividly remember seeing that catch on tv, with my dad, when I was 11. Im stunned right now.

  21. Sad, sad day. Teared up at his halftime show last season. He will live on forever through the catch. No highlight show will be complete without it. RIP.

  22. Ironically, the league has no idea what a “catch” is anymore. “After review, the receiver did not maintain control of the ball while making a football move on his way to the ground” … somehow doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

  23. As a longtime Cowboy fan, watching DC make that catch broke my heart. He was a class guy and a talent that couldn’t be matched. RIP DC. Prayers to his family. I don’t understand any of the thumbs down with people paying respect.

  24. As a lifelong 49er fan, RIP to a legend. You will be missed. Thank you for all the memories.

  25. It was that moment that I truly realized, not only am I a Redskins fan, but I’m also a Dallas Hater, with every bit as much intensity. I kinda felt it when the Rams beat them in the NFC Championship, but this was the moment that the Cowboys as we knew them were done!

  26. A true 49er through and through. A class act and a really good person. The Catch is one of the most iconic plays in any franchises history and the play that’s recognized as the one that kick started a dynasty. RIP Dwight and thank you.

  27. This really irritates me on posts of this nature. We truly are not talking football teams here, we a talking of a great player. This family just lost a son, brother, father, uncle, etc. I know the family could not care in the least about what is being written on these posts right now, but, I just cannot believe the thumbs down that some have chosen. You may not be a 49ers fan, I am not 1 myself, but I find it in terrible distaste for those that have to behave in this manner. If you cannot be respectful to Dwight and his family, just move on.

  28. The man touched so many on and off the field and some people still thumbs down!! What is wrong with you!

  29. DC kick started a 49er dynasty of football that meant much more than sport to the bay area. R.I.P. Dwight.

  30. Me and my friends mimicked “The Catch” every time we got together to play. What a mesmerizing catch. I was SO thrilled that the Cowboys lost!

    Dwight Clark was a gentleman and consummate professional. Integrity like his is lacking these days. Thanks for inspiring this kid with your play.

  31. He was a 10th round pick back in 1979. (old timers like me know these things)

    He averaged 13 yards per catch over his career.

    He was a a solid all around player

    He will always be remembered for his “catch”

    God welcomes home a real person, father and football player. May his family find peace in this sorrow fill time by choosing to remember the good time they share with this great guy.

  32. I am always right, right? says:
    June 4, 2018 at 8:49 pm
    Ironically, the league has no idea what a “catch” is anymore. “After review, the receiver did not maintain control of the ball while making a football move on his way to the ground” … somehow doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

    Edelman’s catch in SB51 was certainly a catch for the ages but it didn’t come in the last minute. Up until that moment, Clark’s catch was #1. No disrespect. Clark was solid. RIP.

  33. .
    “The Catch” was replaced by David Tyree as the Giants destroyed an undefeated team.

  34. I was so sick of the Dallas Cowboys in 1981. CBS showed “America’s Team” EVERY SINGLE WEEK. I didn’t expect the 49ers to win this game and was just waiting for the cowboys to win at the end as always. Then Dwight Clark changed history. Thanks man.

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