Dwight Clark, the 49ers receiver who died on Monday at age 61, will always be remembered for making The Catch, a leaping grab over Cowboys cornerback Everson Walls that propelled San Francisco to the Super Bowl. And even though Walls was beaten on the play, he remembers Clark fondly.
Last year, after Clark had been diagnosed with ALS, the 49ers had a day in his honor at Levi’s Stadium. Many of Clark’s former teammates attended, and so did Walls, a former opponent who had a great deal of respect for Clark as both a player and a man.
As Walls recalled last year, Clark approached him after Kodak began using images of The Catch in its advertising. Clark had agreed to Kodak’s use of his likeness, but Walls was in the picture too, and Walls knew nothing about it. Clark didn’t know Walls well, but he was the first person to inform Walls that he was legally entitled to be compensated for appearing in an advertisement.
“I really didn’t know him, but Dwight didn’t even say hi,” Walls said. “He came right up to me with a sense of urgency. And for him to give a crap about if I got my money? I know a lot of guys. Black, white, whatever. They wouldn’t do that. That goes to show how in tune he was as a peer. And that gave me pause: ‘Hey, this dude here is pretty cool.’”
Kodak had an endorsement deal with both Clark and Joe Montana, who threw the pass that became The Catch, but Kodak refused to pay Walls. Eventually he sued Kodak and got the money he was owed.
“I ended up getting a lot more than Joe and Dwight got put together,” Walls said.
Walls was a great player who was a Hall of Fame finalist this year. He deserves to be remembered for a lot more than just being on the wrong end of a historic play, but Walls knows that if he had to get beaten for a big catch, it was good to get beaten by a man like Dwight Clark.