John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan weren’t scheduled to speak with reporters on Tuesday. But given the passing of Dwight Clark on Monday, both felt compelled to share their favorite memories of the San Francisco 49ers legendary wide receiver.
“I want to start out by saying that both personally and on behalf of the entire organization, I just want to express our condolences to Dwight’s family,” Lynch said. “It’s a tremendous loss.”
Lynch knows the nature of ALS all too well. His mother-in-law fought the disease before ultimately succumbing to it. The general manager shared his admiration for how Dwight fought against ALS and for the awareness he brought to the disease.
Lynch has only been a member of the 49ers organization for 16 months or so, but it didn’t take long for him to recognize just how revered Clark is within the 49ers fan base.
“(You could feel) the love that this community and this fan base has for Dwight,” Lynch said. “You think of Ronnie (Lott) and you think of Jerry (Rice), but what I learned when I got here is that Dwight is right there.”
Former 49ers linebacker and current vice president and senior advisor to the general manager Keena Turner spoke with the entire team this morning. At the request of Shanahan, Turner told the current roster all about Clark’s impact on the history of the organization. The team was also shown clips from Clark’s career, including “The Catch” from the 1981 NFC Championship Game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Lynch concluded by saying that the 49ers will find a way to honor Clark during the upcoming season with a helmet decal, a patch on the jersey or something else. Those conversations are already taking place.
“I can promise you that we’ll come up with a nice way to honor him – not only nice, but fitting,” Lynch said. “He deserves it. He’s earned it. He’s beloved with this fan base.”
Shanahan’s top memories of Clark stemmed from being around the 49ers organization as a kid while his father served as offensive coordinator.
“They always used to pick on me left and right,” Shanahan joked. “I was their guinea pig. They’d send me on errands. They’d all have golf carts, and they’d make me race next to them. I’d have to run, and I’d always lose.
“I think I entertained them quite a bit. I looked up to them. I didn’t know it at the time, but I look back on that stuff and that stuff had a huge impact on who I am now. I feel very fortunate to have grown up around people like that, especially (Dwight).”
The 49ers head coach also shared a funny story regarding the No. 87. Shanahan used to wear the same number as a player in high school and college. When his young kids attended their first 49ers games, they thought fans were wearing Shanahan’s jersey.
“My kids see 87 jerseys walking around (Levi’s® Stadium) and they’re like, ‘Dad, I can’t believe they’re wearing your jersey.’ I have to tell them, ‘No, that’s Dwight. He’s the man, so don’t get that mistaken.’”
Those 87 jerseys won’t be going anywhere next season and beyond. That’s something that comes with the territory of being a legend.