Forrest M. Blue Jr., a former All-Pro center for the San Francisco 49ers who became a commercial developer in the Sacramento region, died Saturday at age 65.
He had dementia and symptoms of Parkinson's disease, which were believed to be the result of a brain injury from his football days, said his daughter Brittney.
A versatile athlete in his youth, Mr. Blue attended Auburn University on a football scholarship but hit over .400 playing baseball as a freshman. He turned down pro offers to focus on football and was chosen by the 49ers in the first round as the 15th player picked in the 1968 NFL draft.
"In a personal highlight aspect, being No. 1 draft choice is it," he told The Bee in 1991. "That's the dream of all college kids."
Mr. Blue played seven seasons in San Francisco as one of the top centers in the team's history. He was named to the first-team All-Pro in 1971 and 1972, and he played in four consecutive Pro Bowls, from 1971 to 1974. He was traded to the Baltimore Colts in 1975 for four seasons, until a back injury forced him to retire from football after the 1978 season.
He settled in Rocklin and started a successful general contracting business, Forrest Blue Properties Inc., which developed motels, shopping centers, offices and other commercial properties. He kept his 6-foot-6, 250-pound frame which earned him the nickname "Tree" with the 49ers in shape by doing much of the construction himself.
Born in 1945 in Marfa, Texas, Mr. Blue excelled at sports while growing up as the son of an Army major. He pitched on a 1957 Little League team in Fort Knox, Ky., that lost to Monterrey, Mexico, the eventual Little League champion.
At Auburn, where he earned an economics degree, he was a defensive tackle before playing center. He was a captain on the 1967 Tigers football team, was named All-American his senior year and played in the Blue-Gray Senior Bowl and College All-Star postseason games.
Mr. Blue was divorced twice. He had two daughters with his first wife, Anne, who was the first mayor of Loomis.
He began showing brain injury symptoms during the 1990s and stopped doing construction work by 2006, his daughter said. He spent the last two years at a Carmichael assisted-living center, where his costs were defrayed by the 88 Plan, a fund set up for retired NFL players.
He directed his family to donate his brain to research into chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive degenerative disease found in athletes with a history of repetitive brain trauma. Research is under way at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University School of Medicine.
For many years, Mr. Blue exercised daily to stay fit. He enjoyed scuba diving and mountain biking, and he was an avid skydiver.
"He probably did a thousand jumps," his daughter said. "He was an adrenaline junkie."