Jesse Freitas Sr., a quarterback on the inaugural San Francisco 49ers team that began play in 1946, has died at the age of 99.
Freitas died of cancer, his son told the San Jose Mercury News. Freitas was believed to have been the second-oldest living former NFL player, behind only former Lions end Cecil Sounders, who is a month older.
After playing quarterback and defensive back at Santa Clara, Freitas was initially selected in the 1944 NFL draft. But instead of playing pro football, he served in the U.S. Army, earning a Bronze Star for his service in the Battle of the Bulge.
When the war ended, Freitas decided to go to the 49ers, who at the time played for the rival All-America Football Conference, instead of playing in the NFL. After playing for the 49ers in the AAFC, he also played for the Chicago Rockets and Buffalo Bills.
After retiring from pro football, Freitas was a coach of football, baseball and basketball at Junípero Serra High School in San Mateo, California, for many years. His 1968 football team had three future pro players: Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Lynn Swann, Canadian Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Tom Scott, and Freitas’s son Jesse Freitas Jr., who briefly played quarterback for the Chargers in the 1970s.
Freitas is survived by two children, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.