San Francisco 49ers: 11 Former Players Among 2016 Hall of Fame Nominees


Earlier in the week, the NFL released their initial list of nominees for the 2016 Hall of Fame class. Among the 93 players listed that are vying to join the greatest players in NFL history in Canton, Ohio, 11 are former San Francisco 49ers.

The most notable former 49er on the list is one of the most prolific, and one of the most controversial wide receivers in NFL history, Terrell Owens. In 1996, the 49ers took the lanky wideout from Chattanooga in the third round as the 89th overall pick, and he would become the second-best receiver in franchise history. In his eight year wearing the red and gold, Owens amassed 592 catches, 8,572 yards, and 81 touchdowns through the air, all second on the 49ers’ all-time list to the greatest wide receiver in football history, Jerry Rice. Owens led the NFL in receiving touchdowns in 2001 and 2002, and was a Pro Bowler in each of his final four seasons with the 49ers.

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After his tenure in San Francisco, he spent two years with the Philadelphia Eagles, three years with the Dallas Cowboys, and a year apiece with the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals. He made his mark at each stop, and made a lot of enemies in the process. From his stunt on the Cowboys’ midfield star, to his rocky relationship with Donovan McNabb, to his televised press conference in his driveway, Owens was one of the most polarizing figures in the game, for better or worse.

Overall in his career, Owens was a six-time Pro Bowler, and was a first-team All-Pro five times. His 15,394 yards are second in NFL history, his 153 touchdowns are third, and his 1,078 catches are sixth. In his first year of eligibility, Owens has a good chance to be enshrined next year.

Roger Craig, the 49ers’ second-round pick in 1983, spent eight seasons by the Bay. With his patented “high knees” running style, and reputation as one of the best receiving running backs in the game, Craig was a big part of three 49ers’ Super Bowls teams. In Super Bowl XIX after the 1984 regular season, Craig became the first player in Super Bowl history to score three times, when he ran for one and caught two from the Super Bowl MVP that year, Joe Montana.

In 1985, Craig became the first player to both rush and receive for over 1,00 yards in the same season, and scored 15 total touchdowns. In 1988, he was named the NFL Offensive Player of the Year when he ran for over 1,500 yards and added over 500 more receiving.

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During his tenure with the 49ers, Craig ran for 7,064 yards and scored on the ground 50 times. He also caught 508 passes for 4,442 yards, along with 16 scores.

Big defensive tackle Bryant Young was also nominated. The 49ers drafted Young seventh overall in 1994, and he would go on to become one of the most dominant defensive tackles of his time. Four times he was named a Pro Bowler, once an All-Pro first-teamer, and thrice an All-Pro second-teamer.

In 1999, Young was named the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year, after breaking his leg so badly the year before, that a metal rod needed to be inserted. That year, he totaled 11 sacks and a safety. He was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990’s as a defensive tackle.

Overall in 14 years, Young racked up 89.5 sacks in 208 games, all of which were starts.

The man who proceeded Craig, Ricky Watters, was also nominated. After Craig left for the Raiders following the 1990 season, Watters was drafted in 1991. He sat out his rookie season because of injuries, but would be a Pro Bowler in each of the next three seasons, his only years with the 49ers. From 1992 to 1994, Watters ran for 2,840 yards and 25 touchdowns, and also established himself as a quality dual threat. He caught 140 passes for 1,450 yards, while scoring eight times.

While those players were with the 49ers in the prime of their careers, some others who joined the team later in their time were also nominated. Isaac Bruce is best known for his 14 years with the Rams, where he won a Super Bowl as part of the “Greatest Show on Turf”, but he finished his career with two seasons in San Francisco. In 26 games, Bruce caught 82 passes for 1,099 yards, with seven touchdowns.

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  • In 2008, bruce caught his 1,000th career pass with the 49ers, against his former team in St. Louis, for a touchdown. In 2010, as a sign of good will, the 49ers traded Bruce to the Rams, allowing him to retire where he should have. Bruce’s 15,208 receiving yards rank fourth in NFL history.

    Gary Anderson, who played an NFL record-tying 23 NFL seasons, spent one of those with the 49ers. In 1997, as a 38-year-old, Anderson made 29 of his 36 kick attempts, with a 51-yard long, and made all 38 extra-point attempts. In 1998, coincidentally the season after Anderson left the 49ers, he completed the first perfect regular season in NFL history, making all 35 field goals and 59 extra point attempts.

    One of the most feared pass rushers in NFL history finds himself among the nominees again. Kevin Greene spent his first eight seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, followed by three with the Steelers and one with the Panthers before making his way to the Bay in 1997. Entering his 13th season, Greene had already amassed 122.5 sacks in his illustrious career. In 14 games with the 49ers, Greene racked up another 10.5 sacks, finishing third on the team. He hung up his cleats in 1999 with 160 total sacks under his belt.

    Brian Westbrook is remembered as the fantastic Eagles’ running back from the early to mid 2000’s, when he was a two-time Pro Bowler and played on a Super Bowl team. But not as well remembered is his final season, which was spent with the 49ers. As a part-time back in 2010, Westbrook played in 14 games, and rushed for 340 yards on 77 carries, and scored four times. He also caught 16 passes for 150 yards.

    Charles Mann won three Super Bowls in his career, two of which came from his wildly successful 11 years with the Redskins. From 1983 to 1993, Mann was a four-time Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl champion with Washington, and eventually was put into the Redskins’ Ring of Fame. In 1994, Mann moved to the Bay Area, where he would earn his third Super Bowl ring. In 14 games, he amassed a sack and a fumble recovery. He retired after his lone year with San Francisco.

    Matt Millen is one of the few players in NFL history to have won four rings, three of which he won with California teams. He spent his first nine seasons with the Raiders, and won a ring in both Los Angeles and Oakland. Afterwards, he spent two years with the 49ers, claiming two interceptions, four recovered fumbles, and his third Super Bowl ring. In his final season in 1991, he played with the Redskins, and although he was inactive for the game, the Redskins won the Super Bowl to give Millen his fourth ring.

    Fred Smerlas was a dominant nose tackle for most of his career in Buffalo, earning six Pro Bowl nods in his 11 years. After his time with the Bills, Smerlas moved on to San Francisco, where played just six games in his only season before spending his last two with the Patriots.

    Next: 49ers Week One Takeaways