Dwight Clark became romantic as we watched “The Catch” on my portable DVD player in the run of a midtown Manhattan hotel 10 years ago.
The radio duplicate of the diversion reached third down from the Cowboys 6 with 57 seconds left in the 49ers-Cowboys 1981 NFC Championship Game. Clark became noticeably anxious, as if he wasn’t certain what was going to occur next. The Niners trailed 27-21 and Candlestick Park was rocking.
As the business people streamed in and out of the hotel run that day, Joe Montana rolled right on the DVD on a play called “Sprint Right Option,” and lofted a pass the Cowboys to this day insist he was trying to chuck divided into the second deck. Clark jumped as high as he ever had in his life and aloft than he ever would again to squeeze Montana’s pass with both hands.
As Clark watched himself spike the turn — no finish section dance — a big grin crossed his face. Then some tears shaped around his eyes. As he tried to speak, his voice cracked. He was choked up. He was reliving the prominence of a lifetime.
“The cold partial about that play is, the Dallas Cowboys had beaten up the 49ers group two or 3 times to hit them out of the Super Bowl in the early seventies, and to be means to give the 49ers fans that one signature play, I’ll perpetually be that guy,” Clark told me. “The story is upheld down from epoch to generation. It becomes bigger than life. That is really my football identity. And I’m excellent with that. we actually like it a lot.”
Clark is a superb guy. we got to know him back in 2007 when we was researching my book, “The Catch,” and the play that was the branch indicate for two franchises. It started the 49ers dynasty — they kick the Bengals two weeks later, the first of their 5 Super Bowl titles in 15 years — and was the commencement of the finish of the Tom Landry epoch in Dallas.
The news from Clark on Sunday night that he has been diagnosed with ALS, amyotrophic parallel sclerosis, differently famous as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is as harmful and distressing as what he did on Jan. 10, 1982 was refreshing and a perpetually moment.
Clark is just 60 years old. “The Catch” is one of the 5 many famous plays in NFL history. Clark leaping with Cowboys cornerback Everson Walls trailing him is an iconic picture. The battle he faces now is much worse than jumping out of Candlestick to make The Catch.
In a matter Clark posted, he brought up the probability of the tie between ALS and his football career. He played 9 years in the NFL after a college career at Clemson.
“I’ve been asked if personification football caused this,” he said. “I don’t know for sure. But we positively think it did. And we inspire the NFLPA and the NFL to continue operative together in their bid to make the diversion of football safer as it relates to conduct trauma.”
There is no heal for ALS. It’s just a matter of how prolonged Clark’s physique can fight off the illness that weakens muscles and leads to problems speaking, respirating and swallowing. “In Sep of 2015, we started feeling debility in my left hand. we was softly profitable courtesy to it given since my personification days, I’ve constantly had pain in my neck,” Clark pronounced in his statement. “I was meditative it was associated to some kind of haughtiness repairs given it would just come and go.”
Former Patriots and Eagles fullback Kevin Turner was diagnosed with ALS in 2010. He died in Mar of 2016. Eight months later, the Boston University Brain CTE Center suggested that Turner died from a serious case of CTE. It was not the ALS that killed him, according to its findings. That raises the issue of a couple between ALS and CTE and football.
“This is the best inconclusive justification we will ever get that this ALS-type of engine neuron illness is caused by CTE,” Ann McKee, the executive of the CTE Center, pronounced last year.
Other former NFL players diagnosed with ALS embody Steve Gleason, O.J. Brigance, Tim Shaw and ex-Raiders fullback Steve Smith.
Clark visited 6 neurologists and 6 ALS specialists once his condition began to deteriorate.
“In further to losing strength in my left palm — which creates opening a container of sugar or buttoning my shirt unfit — we have now gifted debility in my right hand, abs, reduce back and right leg,” Clark said. “I can’t run, play golf or walk any distances. Picking up anything over 30 pounds is a chore. The one piece of good news is that the illness seems to be surpassing some-more solemnly than in some patients.”
Before there was Montana-to-Jerry Rice, there was Montana-to-Clark.
It only happened given Clark was home when the phone rang in the unit he shared comparison year at Clemson with quarterback Steve Fuller. 49ers manager Bill Walsh was in city to work out Fuller and when he called to set up a time, Clark answered the phone and Walsh asked him to locate passes at the workout.
“I went and ran routes for manager Walsh and just had one of those really propitious days,” Clark told me. “I held every pass. A couple of playground catches. It was just a very advantageous day.”
After the workout, Walsh asked Clark if they could go watch some diversion fasten of him.
“Coach, we only held 11 passes this year. There’s just not much to watch,” Clark said.
Walsh asked if there was any diversion he held two passes. So, they watched the diversion against North Carolina.
Walsh didn’t breeze Fuller. The 49ers didn’t have a first-round collect and the Chiefs comparison him in the first round. He drafted Montana in the third round. He wanted to take Clark in the fifth, but his scouts told him he had free-agent talent. Walsh drafted him in the 10th round.
Clark won two Super Bowls and held 506 unchanging deteriorate passes and 48 some-more in the playoffs, including one really big one.
Just over 36 years ago, Clark jumped as high as his physique would concede and done a locate that changed his life. Now, sadly, there’s another reason to strew a tear.