Dwight Clark had a fine NFL career, with 561 catches, all for the San Francisco 49ers.
He'll always be remembered for just one of those catches. It's "The Catch." Of course that's the one.
In the NFC championship game on Jan. 10, 1982, the 49ers had a third down on the Cowboys' 6-yard line with less than a minute to go. They called "Sprint Right Option." Intended receiver Freddie Solomon was covered. Clark was running along the back line of the end zone as Joe Montana was flushed out of the pocket. Montana threw a high pass – some think he was throwing it away, although he says otherwise – and Clark jumped impossibly high to grab it. He scored, the 49ers beat the Cowboys, they moved on and won the Super Bowl, and one of the great NFL dynasties was born.
"In many different ways it comes up, at least once a day," Clark said on a conference call with 49ers media. "It comes up either on TV or somebody saying something, or a letter, or a fan. That’s fine with me ... I love talking about it."
Clark, through his personal website, books appearances and speaking engagements. On the top of the page is a picture of him making "The Catch." There are worse things to be known for. He might not be in such high demand if Solomon had popped open on "Sprint Right Option."
Monday night will be the last 49ers game at Candlestick Park, before the team moves to Levi's Stadium for the 2014 season. Technically there could be a wild chain of events that would lead to San Francisco hosting a playoff game, but as Clark said, "the football gods would really have to be crazy to make that happen."
So Clark will go to the spot of "The Catch" one final time on Monday. He's slated to do an ESPN interview on that spot during the game. He'll take in the stadium, the only home stadium of his NFL career, for the last time.
Understandably, it'll be a pretty emotional night for many people, including the man who was on the receiving end of the most famous play in the stadium's history.
"It’s kind of hard to believe it’s actually happening that they really are going to play the last game there and at some point they’re going to tear it down," said Clark, who played nine NFL seasons, all with San Francisco. "That’s all I’ve ever known is Candlestick Park.
"I hate to see Candlestick go. But I totally understand it."
The new stadium will be spectacular, as most new stadiums are, and Clark understands that's just progress. Candlestick Park was never the nicest venue in the NFL, and by 2013 it was easily one of the worst, but it will take a long, long time for Levi's Stadium to create as many memories as Candlestick produced.
"It was a dump. But it was our dump," Clark said. "There was a lot of history there. And a lot of success. It’s sad to see it go. But that’s progress."
During the conference call, Clark was asked about the possibility of a plaque or something else being put up to commemorate the spot of "The Catch" on whatever renovation project is done where Candlestick Park stands now. Clark obviously hadn't thought about it, and didn't want to sound arrogant, but it did sound like a pretty neat idea.
"I think it would be kind of cool, no matter what they build there, if they put some kind of plaque or something to say ‘This is where the 49ers made the play that started their run of success,'" Clark said. "Or somebody that’s more poetic than I am can come up with something nice to say. Certainly not recognizing me, but recognizing the 49ers’ accomplishment that started with that play on that day in that spot."
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