It was a bittersweet moment outside Gate A at Levi’s Stadium Sunday morning before the 49ers took on the Rams.
It was a celebration of one of the most iconic moments in football history. But the man responsible, former 49ers receiver Dwight Clark, couldn’t be there after succumbing to his battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in June.
San Francisco unveiled a pair of statues commemorating “The Catch,” Clark’s reception that helped the 49ers beat the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC title game following the 1981 season, leading to the club’s first of five Super Bowl Championships, kickstarting a dynasty.
“There’s absolutely no question about what the best moment in the history of the San Francisco 49ers (is), the best play,” 49ers CEO Jed York said. “The only argument is was it the best play in the history of the NFL?”
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The first statue revealed was of quarterback Joe Montana, who threw the pass, with his arms raised celebrating the decisive touchdown. Twenty-three yards away was Clark, jumping and making the catch with the “spring right option” play diagrammed underneath.
“I always tell Dwight that he didn’t have to make it so dramatic and kick his legs up, throw his hands up. Just catch the ball,” Montana said. “But if he was here today. I know what he’d be telling me. He’d be whispering in my ear: ‘I know they didn’t call it The Throw for a reason.’”
The event was attended by a number of former 49ers, including Hall of Fame receivers Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens, and tight end Brent Jones. There were also members of Clark’s family, including his wife, Kelly.
“It’s difficult to be back here without DC. I know he would have absolutely loved this,” Kelly said.
Clark was diagnosed with ALS in 2015. He was 61 when he died at his home June 4 near Whitefish, Mont. He played for the 49ers for nine seasons.
“Dwight, he was a part of our family,” said York. “He was like my uncle (Eddie DeBartolo Jr.’s) little brother. He was a guy that was always unbelievably kind and generous to me and my family growing up. We miss him so much.”
The two statues are positioned outside of the northwestern gate at Levi’s Stadium and can be accessed by the general public on non-game days. They are the first statues created by the team put outside the stadium. A number of the team’s Hall of Famers, including Montana and Clark, also have statues inside the team’s Hall of Fame, adjacent to the museum inside Levi’s Stadium.
The team has no immediate plans to build other statues outside the stadium of players like Ronnie Lott, Jerry Rice or Steve Young, though that possibility hasn’t been ruled out.
“We’ve discussed it,” team president Al Guido told The Bee. “As you know, we’re a storied franchise. I don’t think we’re ever going to be able to build hundreds of statues. We’re going to have Hall of Famers for a very long time.”