Dwight Clark, an NFL wide receiver best remembered for a single play known as “The Catch,” a fingertip grab of a game-winning touchdown that helped launch the San Francisco 49ers dynasty of the 1980s and ’90s, died June 4 at his home in Whitefish, Mont. He was 61.
He announced in March 2017 that he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. His wife announced his death on Twitter.
Mr. Clark won two Super Bowls with the 49ers during a nine-year career that ended in 1987. He pulled down the winning touchdown pass from Joe Montana in the NFC championship game against the Dallas Cowboys following the 1981 season.
“The Catch” is considered one of the most significant plays in NFL history and one of the most indelible images, as Mr. Clark leaped high in the end zone to catch the pass in his outstretched fingers. Several photographers caught the game-winning touchdown from different angles, and an end-zone view of “The Catch” was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine.
Mr. Clark’s touchdown propelled the 49ers to their first of five Super Bowl titles in a span of 14 seasons.
The play happened Jan. 10, 1982, when the upstart 49ers hosted the Cowboys in the NFC title game. With the 49ers facing a third down at the Dallas six-yard line with less than a minute to play, coach Bill Walsh called, “Sprint right option.”
Montana rolled out and retreated under pressure from Ed “Too Tall” Jones and Larry Bethea before lofting the ball toward the back of the end zone. Mr. Clark leaped to make a fingertip catch over Everson Walls, and the 49ers went on to win the game, 28-27, and then their first Super Bowl two weeks later against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Mr. Clark joined the 49ers in 1979 as a 10th-round pick out of Clemson, where he caught only 33 passes in three seasons. He was picked after Walsh was impressed by his pass-catching ability in a pre-draft workout with his Clemson teammate, quarterback Steve Fuller, who was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs.
The 6-foot-4 Mr. Clark eventually made the team and became the favorite target of Montana, drafted by San Francisco the same year from Notre Dame. Mr. Clark caught 82 passes in 1980 for eight touchdowns, then 85 passes in 1981. He led the NFL with 60 receptions in a strike-shortened 1982 season. He caught 48 touchdown passes during his career, all of which was spent with the 49ers. His No. 87 was retired by the 49ers in 1988.
Dwight Edward Clark was born Jan. 8, 1957, in Kinston, N.C., and played quarterback in high school.
Mr. Clark made his final public appearance in October when the 49ers honored him at a home game in San Francisco, where he was greeted by many of his former teammates.
Survivors include his wife, the former Kelly Radzikowski, and three children from a previous marriage.