SANTA CLARA John McVay always was respected at 49ers headquarters because he could spot talent and because he helped assemble some of the greatest teams in NFL history.
McVay always was beloved because he never failed to credit others, and he was at his self-effacing best on Monday, a few hours after the 49ers announced the former personnel guru, who spent 21 seasons in the team's front office, would be inducted into the 49ers' Hall of Fame on Oct. 12.
McVay, 82, told stories about former owner Eddie DeBartolo and former head coach Bill Walsh, noting several times the late Walsh's uncanny ability to find hidden gems.
McVay said the 49ers often had vast tryouts attracting as many as 100 eager participants, some with dubious football backgrounds.
McVay said he remembered standing on a fire escape next to Walsh at the team's former training camp facility in Redwood City when the head coach pointed at a smallish, blond player below.
"Sign him," Walsh told McVay.
"How do you know?" McVay asked.
"Just sign him," the coach said.
McVay did, and that player reserve running back Bill Ring stayed with the 49ers for six seasons, helping San Francisco win its first Super Bowl title.
Walsh also deserves credit for finding the player most responsible for that initial Super Bowl title, McVay said.
"Over the years and at that time, there was absolutely no shortage of personnel scouts, assistant coaches, equipment men, trainers, everybody no shortage of people who took complete credit for drafting Joe Montana," he said. "Actually, it was Bill Walsh who drafted him."
McVay and Walsh got to know each other in the late 1970s when McVay, then the coach of the New York Giants, brought in Walsh, then Stanford's head coach, as a consultant to teach his staff about modern offensive concepts. The two had dinners together and discussed football over bottles of beer.
When McVay's stint with the Giants ended after the 1978 season, Walsh who since had become the 49ers' head coach called McVay and asked if he wanted a job in the front office.
"I was on the first plane," McVay said.