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How Dwight Clark's Legacy Inspires the Next Generation of 49ers Players

Although defensive linemen Austin Bryant and Clelin Ferrell are new faces to the San Francisco 49ers organization, they already had a strong understanding of 49ers legend Dwight Clark's legacy.

Bryant and Ferrell's connection goes back to their college days at Clemson University, long before the two were reunited in The Bay during free agency. The duo were roommates, played together on the Tigers defensive line and entered the NFL Draft in 2019. At Clemson, under head coach Dabo Swinney, is where they also learned about Clark's story.

"The first time I heard of him was during a pregame speech when we came out here to Santa Clara for the National Championship Game in 2018 against Alabama," Bryant said. "Coach Swinney used Dwight's story as a moniker to reference how everything was coming together for us as a team and how he was a legend cemented in 49ers history."

Before Clark helped the 49ers establish a dynasty throughout the 1980s, the wide receiver played three seasons with the Tigers and earned a spot in the Clemson Sports Hall of Fame following his retirement in 1988. His story of recording one of the most famous plays in NFL history, "The Catch," has stood the test of time and inspired future generations, including current 49ers players, in their football careers.

"Many different physical and tangible things can be done to get us going," Ferrell said. "But the biggest thing for us is the stories that we hear. People like coach Swinney told football tales from the different greats that he's been around and the different things that he's learned throughout his life. A great Clemson figure like Dwight Clark is a story that gets passed down to us and we can then tell our kids."

Clark's famous grab from the 1981 NFC Championship Game that sent the 49ers to their first Super Bowl is honored throughout the team's history. Details from "The Catch" can be seen in the 49ers museum and its imagery is pictured throughout the organization.

The iconic moment gives hope to current 49ers players that they too have the opportunity to make a play that could forever go down in franchise history.

"You just never know when your moment is here," Bryant said. "Your opportunity to make yourself forever known, historic or legendary, you just never know. So you've got to take every day, not for granted. You've got to pursue it with everything you've got, because it might be your chance to cement yourself, your family and do something great for the organization... It's why we do what we do."

"To have the opportunity to play in the same uniform as people who've created great moments here like Dwight Clark, it keeps me grounded," Ferrell added. "You'll never realize the impact of any play that you could make. The one thing I've realized is that people are really inspired by the plays that happen on the field, just one play can turn someone's day around and help motivate them to keep going... The effect that this game really has on people in regards to how they live their lives, we can really make a change for the better just by catching the ball or getting the sack like we're trying to do. It's definitely inspiring and it keeps us grounded."

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