The mission was to scout the quarterback at Clemson, Steve Fuller, not find a receiver.
The problem was there were no receivers around to catch passes from Fuller for the workout Hall of Fame San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh was waiting for to begin on Clemson’s campus. As former Niners president and CEO Carmen Policy remembered for Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan on Movin’ The Chains, Walsh, in looking for someone to join Fuller on the field, happened to come across the seldom-used Clark.
‘Bill Walsh says, ‘I want to see some film on you,’ and Dwight said, ‘Well, Coach, there’s not much to show you”
Clark ran some routes, made some catches, and the late coach liked what he saw.
“And when he got back to the office, he said, ‘Put this kid’s name down. We’ll probably bring him in as an undrafted free agent,'” Policy said. “Bill Walsh says, ‘I want to see some film on you,’ and Dwight said, ‘Well, Coach, there’s not much to show you.’ He said, ‘I only caught 11 passes. Maybe I should get you some of those still shots.’
‘He got to training camp and he wouldn’t unpack his bag, because he kept telling Joe Montana, ‘I know I’m going to get cut”
“When we got to the 10th round, Bill said, ‘Pick that Dwight kid from Clemson.’ And that’s how he got drafted. He got to training camp and he wouldn’t unpack his bag, because he kept telling Joe Montana, ‘I know I’m going to get cut. There’s no way I’m going to make this team.’ And now … he’s part of the heart and soul of the 49er dynasty.”
Clark, who passed away Monday at age 61, got there by making what is forever known as “The Catch,” the reception he made in the back of the end zone for the winning touchdown in the 49ers’ 1981 NFC Championship Game victory against the Dallas Cowboys. The game advanced the Niners to Super Bowl XVI, where they beat the Cincinnati Bengals and launched an NFL dynasty.
‘You can’t believe the consequence of that one play because it was so mammoth‘
Policy and then-49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo began watching the game in the owners’ suite, but their anxiety wouldn’t allow them to handle all of the chatter around them.
“So we disappeared and we wound up either in the coaches’ booth, keeping our mouth shut, or in the press box because it was quiet, people leave you alone. Eddie got so nervous, he said, ‘I’ve got to get out of here. I’m going down on the field.’ And he goes down on the field and I’m up there in the press box. We’re just watching the play unfold and it looked like this was going to one of those plays that just didn’t work and Joe was going to through the ball away or something. And when Dwight jumps up and catches the ball, your eyes are telling you, ‘There was a pass and Dwight caught it and he caught it in the end zone.’ But somehow that vision didn’t connect with the reality of your mind, and you can’t believe the consequence of that one play because it was so mammoth.
‘This horse’s tail is flailing up and down in the air, and the cop’s up there and he’s trying to keep the horse calm‘
“The irony is Eddie DeBartolo never saw it. We had mounted police down on the field ready to engage in crowd control. Eddie’s behind the rear end of this horse. This horse’s tail is flailing up and down in the air, and the cop’s up there and he’s trying to keep the horse calm. Everybody’s screaming and yelling, and Eddie yells, ‘What happened? What happened? Why’s everybody screaming?’ We didn’t have those big screens (at the stadium) then, so he couldn’t even watch it on the big screen and see what was happening. And the policeman says, ‘Mr. D, Clark, touchdown!'”
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