This past weekend, the 49ers celebrated and honored the proud history of the organization by welcoming back close to 80 of its former players for the team's annual Alumni Weekend.
The 49ers singled out two specific groups for special recognition over the weekend, the 1958 team in celebration of their 50th anniversary, and the eleven defensive players who were on the field during the infamous "goal line stand" during the 1981 Super Bowl.
The tribute to the defensive team of the 49ers first Super Bowl Championship team, as well as a celebration of the careers of such 49ers greats from the '58 team who were in attendance including quarterback John Brodie, Hall of Famer Bob St. Clair, wide receiver RC "alley-oop" Owens, wide receiver and kicker Gordie Soltau, and wide receiver Billy Wilson made for a special weekend.
"To be honored, it means you've done something in your football career," Owens said. "And for me to have my teammates here makes it even more special. Gosh, I'm surprised it's gotten to that 50th year somehow."
Ten of the eleven members of the defense on the '81 Super Bowl team were in attendance for the various events over the weekend, including recent Hall of Fame inductee Fred Dean and Jack "Hacksaw" Reynolds, who was flown in via a private jet from his island home for the weekend by 49ers owner John York.
"It's real special," Reynolds said of the Alumni Weekend. "I haven't seen most of these guys for probably years or so. It's kind of funny, I've come a long way and I've been away for a long time, so it's real special."
While Hall of Fame safety and goal line stance member Ronnie Lott was out of town due to prior engagements, defensive lineman Dwaine Board, an assistant coach with the Seattle Seahawks, was in town for Sunday's game and thus able to meet up with his '81 teammates.
"It was great. When you go there, it's funny, because you see all these big stomachs and everybody is rubbing bellies and it's great," Board said. "That's how you introduce yourself, by rubbing bellies. But seeing those guys brought back a lot of memories. It brought back a lot of stories too."
Those stories got started at the 49ers facility early Saturday morning during a brunch on the patio, which was followed by a chance to observe the current team's final walk thru.
Coach Singletary also addressed the group, which was then given a tour of the facility that showcased some of the updated amenities in the building, such as the new trophy display in the front lobby, and a jersey display of every member of the 49ers in the Hall of Fame. Back for the first time since his induction, Dean was extremely pleased to see his number 74 jersey framed on the wall.
For many of the alumni players like Dean, being back at the facility served up a solid dose of nostalgia.
"It's nice to see everybody," said Craig Puki, one of the 49ers linebackers who was a part of the goal line stand. "It brings back a lot of memories and it's nice to see the facility and all that it has to offer. It's been a real pleasure to be here."
The alumni reconvened Saturday night at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Burlingame for a cocktail hour and sit-down dinner inside one of the hotel's banquet halls.
Several of the former players like quarterback Jeff Kemp, were happy to be back in town to see some old teammates and reminisce about the great times they shared in San Francisco during their playing days.
"I've always wanted to come to alumni weekend with the 49ers, particularly because I think this team is great about keeping their alumni connected and putting on a good party," said Kemp, who also played for Rams, Eagles and Seahawks. "Seeing not only the old-timers, which I guess I am now, but the guys I played with, it's really a lot of fun."
Many of the players at the dinner event couldn't help but talk about old memories and the particular greatness of the 49ers teams of the 1980's.
"I just saw our d-line, Archie Reese, Lawrence Pillars, Fred Dean and I told them no disrespect to the current contemporary players, but that was real football right there," former 49ers wide receiver Mike Wilson said. "We had a good formula, the chemistry was there, we had good success in the 80's and nobody can ever take that away from us now. That's the beauty of alumni weekend, seeing guys who you played with because it's in the books now."
As prolific as the 49ers offense was during the '80's, the defense also made their way into the books with their four downs in Super Bowl XVI.
Another member of the '81 defensive line Archie Reese, was also extremely excited to see Dean and the other players who were on the field during the most recognizable defensive sequence in 49ers history.
"It's a great feeling to bring back the defensive team that eventually won the Super Bowl," Reese said. "It was a blessing with the guys that we came with because during that era, we weren't winning many games. It was an honor and a blessing to be a part of that."
Saturday night's festivities were hosted by Bay Area sports personality and host of 49ers Total Access Joe Fonzi, and there were a number of highlights from the dinner including a performance by the Gold Rush, a video segment of the '58 team which was followed by a speech from RC Owens, as well as words from team owners Jed and John York and 49ers Vice President of Football Affairs Keena Turner.
The night ended with what has become one of the more popular portions of the weekend - the annual 49ers Family Feud game. The trivia contest pitted four groups of alumni from different decades in semi-final matches to answer questions about 49ers history from a different era other than their own.
Laughter ensued as the players had fun trying to remember names and places of different eras of 49ers football. In the final round, the representatives of the 1960's demonstrated superior 49ers knowledge compared to the representatives of the 1950's and 1940's, who were combined on the same team. The winners received a black 49ers leather jacket.
"It's kind of fun to see if we can beat them. When you're competitive you try to beat the other team in anything," Billy Wilson said. "We were after them. I thought we were going to win. We only got beat by half a point, but it was fun."
The weekend came to a close on Sunday at Candlestick Park when the 49ers hosted the Seahawks.
Prior to kickoff, the 49ers alumni spent time with the 49ers Faithful signing autographs and taking pictures. Then at halftime, all former players took the field once again for a special halftime ceremony.
Returning to the field to be honored was a special moment in itself, but once the video tribute aired of the '81 team, several players appeared truly moved.
"It was quite a thrill, the field itself has changed quite a bit, but the fans and the stadium is still the same," Puki said. "It gives you goose bumps. That's the best way to explain it. Standing next to Hacksaw, Keena and my teammates, it all flashes back."