"75 for 75" is an article series from the 49ers Museum highlighting legendary moments in 49ers history as part of the team's 75th Anniversary celebrations in 2021.
September 22, 1985
NFL rookies experience their share of embarrassing moments on the field. 49ers defensive back Tory Nixon's comical brush with infamy began in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum's parking lot.
In Week 3 of Nixon's rookie campaign, the Los Angeles Raiders hosted the 49ers at the Coliseum. For Nixon, who played college ball at San Diego State, it was a bit of a homecoming. Several friends and family members were on hand to see his first Southern California appearance in a 49ers uniform.
San Francisco blasted the Raiders 34-10 that day and afterward Nixon spent time visiting with the happy entourage. Suddenly, he heard loud horns honking in the distance and noticed the 49ers team buses rolling out of the stadium parking lot. Nixon recalled the frantic seconds that followed.
"I grabbed my suitcase and started running through the maze of people to the top of this ramp," Nixon said. "By the time I got there, the buses are gone. So I jump on the back of this police motorcycle and I tell the guy, 'you've got to give me a ride.'"
The LAPD officer politely informed the baby-faced rookie that department regulations prohibited him from providing transportation to civilians on his motorcycle. Still, Nixon persisted.
"I said, 'You've got to give me a ride. I'm on the team. I'm going to get in trouble. I need to get on that bus.' So, he gets on the police walkie-talkie and talks to his supervisor."
After getting his boss's approval, the friendly police officer cranked up his Harley and set off in hot pursuit of the bus. From the rear of the motorcycle, the helmet-less Nixon held tightly, his long blond hair blowing in the wind as they raced through the busy Los Angeles streets with lights flashing and siren blaring.
49ers coaches and players on the team buses took notice of the commotion and realized they were being pursued by the police. Even stranger, there was a member of their defensive secondary on the back of the police motorcycle clutching an ugly suitcase.
Hilarity quickly followed on the team buses when Nixon was spotted. Players gathered at the windows, hooting and hollering while joyfully snapping pictures.
"We finally caught up to the bus like five miles later," Nixon said. "I walked on the bus and I happened to get on the bus that Bill Walsh is on. There's like five buses and I get on the one he's on and he's sitting right up front. He just looks at me and kind of shakes his head like he does. Just shakes his head and smirks."
Nixon thought he would never live it down, but the following season he redeemed himself. In the final minute of a game with Green Bay, the 49ers were clinging to a 24-17 lead with the Packers threatening to score. With 33 seconds remaining, Nixon picked off quarterback Randy Wright's pass at the 12 yard line and raced 88 yards to the end zone. It was the first interception of Nixon's career and the second longest interception return in team history at the time.
During Nixon's four seasons with San Francisco from 1985-1988 he posted three interceptions and earned a Super Bowl ring with the 49ers in 1988, but his thrilling ride on a police chopper through the streets of L.A. remains at the top of his highlight list.