Leo Nomellini was the San Francisco 49ers very first draft choice after they joined the NFL in 1950. Nomellini, who earned the nickname "The Lion," played on both the offensive and defensive lines during his 14-year career with the 49ers. He was named to the Pro Bowl ten times and was one of only a handful of players to be named to an all-NFL team on both offense and defense. During the off-season, Nomellini often worked as a professional wrestler. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1969 along with fellow 49er FB Joe Perry.
The San Francisco 49ers retired jersey number 12 in honor of QB John Brodie, the 49ers starter from 1961 to 1973. During that period, Brodie was consistently among the league leaders in passing. He was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 1970 when he threw for 2941 yards, 24 touchdowns, and only 10 interceptions.
Ohio businessman Eddie DeBartolo Jr. purchased the San Francisco 49ers in 1977. He immediately set about making sweeping changes in order to transform the 49ers into a consistently winning franchise. These changes included the hiring of now-legendary head coach Bill Walsh. Over the next 15 years, the San Francisco 49ers would become one of the winningest franchises in all of professional sports.
The San Francisco 49ers won four Super Bowls during the 1980s, including Super Bowl XVI (1981), Super Bowl XIX (1984), Super Bowl XXIII (1988), and Super Bowl XXIV (1989). This impressive string of championships earned them the title "Team of the 80s." They would also go on to win Super Bowl XXIX (1994), making them the first team in NFL history to win five Super Bowls.
Considered somewhat of a long shot, QB Joe Montana wasn't drafted by the San Francisco 49ers until the very last pick of the third round (82nd overall). Montana would go on to become perhaps the greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL. During his sixteen-year career, Montana would lead the 49ers to four NFL championships. He earned Super Bowl MVP honors in 1982, 1985, and 1990 as well as league MVP honors in 1989 and 1990. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000.
DB Ronnie Lott was the first San Francisco 49er to finish his career with more than 50 interceptions -- he had 51 as a 49er. He also set an NFL record for the most career postseason interceptions. Lott was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000, his first year of eligibility.
Legendary San Francisco 49ers head coach Bill Walsh is generally credited with creating the West Coast Offense. Originally developed by Walsh during the 1960s while he was an assistant with the Cincinnati Bengals, the West Coast Offense is based on the idea of throwing a lot of quick, timed, high-percentage passes in order to keep control of the ball. While other teams had used ball-control offenses before, they were usually built around the running game. Walsh's strategy was unique in that it maintained the ball-control aspect, yet allowed for big plays as well since it was designed so that wide receivers could pick up large chunks of yards after the catch. When Walsh was named head coach of the 49ers, he experienced a lot of success with the West Coast Offense, and it has since spread throughout the league.
WR Jerry Rice compiled an amazing 18,442 receiving yards and 169 receiving touchdowns during his career as a San Francisco 49er. As if that weren't enough, Rice would go on to pad his stats even more, playing for several other teams including the Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks after his release by the 49ers. Perhaps the greatest player ever to play the game, Jerry Rice has set benchmarks for future NFL wide-receivers that may never be broken!