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75 for 75: Bill Walsh's First Draft 


"75 for 75" is an article series from the 49ers Museum highlighting moments in the team's history as part of the franchise's 75th Anniversary celebrations in 2021.


May 3-4, 1979

Bill Walsh participated in his first NFL Draft as head coach of the 49ers and changed the future of the franchise. Without a first-round pick, Walsh used the club's second-round selection on speedy UCLA running back James Owens. In the third round, he selected Notre Dame quarterback Joe Montana and in the 10th round he found Clemson wide receiver Dwight Clark.

Clark vividly recalled his first meeting with Walsh.

"He was in Clemson to work out (quarterback) Steve Fuller," Clark said. "I was Steve's roommate. I was walking out the door with my golf clubs when the phone rang. This guy said, 'Hi, I'm Bill Walsh.' I didn't know who he was, but I talked to him a bit and he said he was going to watch Fuller throw a few passes. He asked if I'd like to come along and run some routes for Steve, so I did. Afterward, coach Walsh asked me if I had any film on myself. I laughed and told him I only caught 11 passes my senior year so there's not a lot of film. I figured I'd never hear from him again."

Walsh did not forget. Hal Wyatt, the 49ers trainer, recalled the atmosphere in the war room on Day 2 of the draft.

"Bill came back into the draft room and began looking at all the cards of players left on the board. Out of a number of wide receivers still undrafted, he pulled Dwight's card off the board and said, 'I remember this kid, he'll make a good target for our quarterbacks during camp. Let's bring him in.'"

Walsh selected Clark with the 249th pick in the 1979 NFL Draft. Two years later, Montana connected with Clark for the game-winning touchdown (aka "The Catch") to beat Dallas, sending the 49ers to their first Super Bowl and igniting nearly two decades of unsurpassed football excellence.

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