Greg Clark, who played tight end for the 49ers for five seasons, has died at the age of 49.
Clark’s cause of death has not been reported. His family released a statement indicating that they would participate in brain research to determine whether he had CTE.
Recruited to Stanford by Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh, Clark was an impressive blocker in college who proved to be a better receiver and athlete than NFL teams expected with his performances in the Shrine Game and at pre-draft workouts. The 49ers traded up in the third round to take Clark in the 1997 NFL draft.
Known for his toughness, Clark played through injuries including broken ribs, and in one game in Minnesota he played even though a member of the 49ers’ medical staff punctured his lung while injecting his ribs with a painkiller before the game. Clark recalled last year how he was rushed to the hospital immediately after the game.
“It was like an ER show you see on TV,” Clark told Matt Maiocco of NBCSportsBayArea.com. “You have 12 people around. Everyone is chaotic. They’re cutting off your jersey and everything. There’s not time for an anesthetic, so they’re getting out the scalpel and cutting. You have a bunch of people on one side of you holding you while another guy has a big ol’ pair of pliers and is trying to bust it through the side of your ribs through the cartilage and all that muscle. And he couldn’t get through. He was just shaking. You know how you can see a guy’s eyes and know that he’s panicked? I’m screaming. I was swearing like a sailor. It hurt so bad.”
In retirement Clark worked in the real estate business.