Dwight Clark, the charismatic 49ers receiver whose fingertips launched an NFL dynasty, died Monday at the age of 61. Known now and forever for "The Catch," Clark formed a public battle against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis during the last 14 months of his life.
Clark's wife, Kelly, announced the news via Twitter.
"I'm heartbroken to say I lost my best friend and man today," she wrote. "He passed peacefully surrounded by many of the people he loved most. I'm grateful to all Dwight's friends, teammates and 49ers fans who have sent their love during their battle with ALS."
Former 49s owner Eddie DeBartolo led sorrows sorrows.
"Today, I lost my little brother and one of my best friends," DeBartolo said in a statement.
"I can not express how much Dwight was to me and to anyone who touched his life. He was a great man, father, grandfather, brother and a good friend and teammate. He showed tremendous courage and dignity in his struggle with ALS and we hope it will soon be a cure for this terrible disease. I always remember Dwight as he was ̵
Fans, former teammates, Hall of Famers and others from the World of Proofball went to Twitter to express their feelings.
Jerry Rice: "Love you Dwight Clark RIP."
"Really sorry for the loss of Dwight Clark" wrote the current 49's tackle Joe Staley. "He was so much more than a football player. He was so kind and happy. Such a pure human spirit."
About 6,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with ALS every year and approximately 20,000 live with the fatal disease at any time , according to the ALS association.
Clark's clash is proof of its shyness because, as DeBartolo said, Clark was "bigger than life". He was also "handsome, charismatic" and many other golden adjectives. This was really true for all of Clark's adult life and even after his diagnosis in March 2017.
He revealed his ALS diagnosis in an open letter to fans. He then said that he still "tried to wrap my head around the challenge I will face."
He began to feel symptoms 2015, problems he initially dismissed as the remainder of his spell days.
Clark continued to publish appearances after his announcement events suddenly tinged with both love and sorrow. Most especially, he appeared at mid-season 49's game against Dallas Cowboys on October 22, 2017. With Montana and other members of the 81 team on the field for a "Dwight Clark Day" ceremony, he picked up the audience with a speech from a suite on Levi & # 19; s Stadium.
"I think everyone knows I'm going through a little thing right now," he told the audience in a lame voice. "And I need your prayers and thoughts. I appreciate those you've given me. "
By that time, Clark had lost about 60 pounds from his designated weight of 212 pounds from his playing days. Not long after he was commenced at the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame.
Clark handled his disease with dignity and grace , but it was tough for those who remembered the high-flying symbol of the 49th era. Former Executive Carmen Policy, under which Clark served as Director General for 49ers (1998) and Cleveland Browns (1998-2002), called ALS "a harmful disease" .
"I think someone who has some kind of connection to Dwight – really feels upset. Crazy. Really like lashing out because it's just. Not. Fairly, "said the politics recently.
Born in Kinston, North Carolina, January 8, 1957, Dwight Edward Clark's early athletic career hardly suggested immortality. He was a quarterback at Garinger High in North Carolina, who is conducting a crime that despised be stronger on the running game.
He really wanted to play basketball at Clemson University, but he was not fast enough to be guard and at 6-foot-4 was not high enough to be a forward.
Clark chose football instead and the future offensive star played strong safety early in his Clemson career. Even after he switched to the receiver, Clark only took 33 passes over two seasons.
As he told the author Mike Lupica in 1985: "About my future In football I was determined by what I did at college I would work at Wendy right now. "
Instead, the phone rang at his campus apartment one day when the NFL draft of 1979 approached. Clark did not think he'd just swung his clubs over his shoulder for a round of golf. But he turned around, picked up the phone and heard Walsh at the other end of the line.
The recent 49-year-old coach explained that he was in town for a training session with Clark's spokesman, quarterback Steve Fuller. "I need a recipient to drive a few routes," Walsh told Clark.  Clark put down his golf clubs and went to the soccer field. He caught everything in sight, including Walsh's eye. As former 49's offensive linear Randy Cross said, "Just one guy impressed Bill that day and it was not Steve Fuller."
Walsh was so fascinated that he traced down a Clemson movie if he learned more about what Clark took with the table. It was tricky because Clark caught only 11 passes during the 1978 season. "Are there any s pel where you took two passes? "Walsh finally asked him.
In the 1979 draft, Kansas City took Chiefs Fuller in the first round. 49ers took Montana in the third round and Clark in the 10th. Walsh made the latter pick against his actor, wondering why 49ers would throw a pick at a player who would probably go away.
Walsh put his foot down: "I said no, that man will be here. You look."
Clark continued with a nine-year NFL career that resulted in 506 pass receptions – a 49er record until Rice came together – more than 6,700 meters, 48 touchdowns and his shirt No. 87 are retired by teams.
Oh, and The Catch, a 6-yard touchdown pass from Joe Montana against Dallas Cowboys in the 1981 NFC Championship game.
In one of the most indelible moments in sports history, Montana rolled to the right, opposed the assembly pressure of three Cowboy defenders and raised a cushion-soft spiral toward the end of the end zone.
Clark, who had slipped over the backline, jumped so high for the unlikely catch as years later, Cowboy's players insisted that Montana tried to throw the ball away.
"The Catch" drove 49ers into the Super Bowl, where they won the first of their five Lombardi Trophies.
"The most dramatic thing" Clark said about the catch, years later, "Wh and I woke up the next morning and it was the front of the magazine. I knew that although we lost the Super Bowl, even though I got to cut next year, they could never get that way from me. "
The catch grew into a symbol of the 49ers franchise. Body-shaped coach Bill Walsh's genius, Montana's magic and a generation of players, like Clark, managed to get-even float-at the moment.
The fun is that they can never get the game right in practice. Walsh had Montana and Clark repeat the pass called Sprint Right Option as early as the training camp in Rocklin before the 1981 season.
The game design required Montana to throw to its primary recipient, Freddie Solomon, in flat. But Walsh wanted his quarterback to work out to find his second option, Clark.
You know, just if. Montana and Clark never got the time right and really did not understand why Walsh was so intending to drill something so far
"When we finally left, Dwight and I both said," The gray-haired guy is going to senile, "Montana laughed later. "I do not know what he's thinking about, but we would never throw the ball there."
But on January 10, 1982 under the dark sky at Candlestick Park, 49ers down 27-21, Walsh called Sprint Right Option. Solomon dragged and left Montana to boast for his life as Ed Too Tall Jones, Larry Bethea and DD Lewis closed in.
When everyone seemed to lose, Montana was flying.
"The only time he got it right "said Clark later," everything was on the line, time wound down and the defense in his face. It was the magic Joe Montana. "
And that was the beauty of Dwight Clark, the only man who could have reached it.
" He was in charge of one of the most iconic games in the NFL story that began our run of the Super Bowl championship, but for I will always be an extension of my family, "DeBartolo said in his statement Monday." I love him and will miss him terribly. "
In addition to his wife, Kelly, Clark is fired by her daughter Casey and sons Riley and Mac.