"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.
While the 49ers offense lit up the Kezar Stadium scoreboard during the mid-1960s, electricity of another kind resonated just outside the stadium. The corner of Haight and Ashbury Streets, located a mere seven city blocks from Kezar Stadium, was ground zero for rock and roll, social revolution and 1967's Summer of Love. Game days in the area often attracted an eclectic mix of dancing hippies and rabid football fans.
"Me and Matt Hazeltine used to drive down Haight Street on the way to the park on Sundays," said Dave Wilcox, a seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker with the 49ers. "The streets were filled with people, some playing flutes and drums. It looked like they were having a good time. I don't think they were there to watch football though."
At left tackle, Len Rohde was the linchpin on an offensive line that developed into the driving force of the 49ers offense. Flanked by guards Elmer Collett and Howard Mudd, center Bruce Bosley and right tackle Cas Banaszek, the line provided Brodie with the protection he needed to post some of his best numbers in 1968. He threw for 3,020 yards and 22 touchdowns, but it was the running attack that caught opponents by surprise.
Fullback Ken Willard was the workhorse. As the second player picked in the 1965 NFL Draft, the 49ers expected Willard to resurrect a dormant running game to complement Brodie. Willard didn't disappoint. Under new head coach Dick Nolan in 1968, he gained 967 yards, second best in the NFL, and added seven touchdowns. Gary Lewis ran for 523 yards. The two backs also provided Brodie with reliable receivers out of the backfield, nabbing 63 passes between them.
"Willard was a tough nut," Rohde said. "He was great around the goal line and when a first down was needed. We used to kid him a lot. He had a great sense of humor. We'd tell him, 'If we need two yards you'll be sure to get us one.'"
During his nine seasons in San Francisco, Willard led the team in rushing seven-straight years and was selected to four Pro Bowls. He recorded 5,930 yards on the ground, 2,936 receiving yards and 61 touchdowns with the 49ers, and still ranks fourth on the club's all-time rushing list.
While the 49ers offense was putting points on the scoreboard in 1968, the atmosphere just outside Kezar Stadium was decidedly different.
"You never knew what you might find at Kezar," Rohde said. "Inside you had a blue collar crowd. Lots of drinking and fighting. Outside, near Golden Gate Park, the hippies were playing music and dancing... It was different, I'll tell you that."