Fred Dean, legendary San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman who's a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, died Wednesday night. He was 68 years old. Dean also spent time with the San Diego Chargers and played in a total of 141 NFL games.
"The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Fred Dean," Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker said in a statement. "He exemplified many of the values learned from this great game -- commitment, integrity, courage -- over the course of his life. Our thoughts and prayers are with Fred's wife, Pam, and their entire family. We will forever keep his legacy alive to serve as inspiration for future generations. The Hall of Fame flag will be flown at half-staff in Fred's memory."
According to the San Jose Mercury News, former 49ers teammate Dwight Hicks posted on his private Facebook account that Dean had been battling COVID-19. No cause of death was given in the Hall of Fame's death announcement.
The Chargers drafted Dean in the second round of the 1975 NFL Draft after a stellar career at Louisiana Tech. He played linebacker in college but quickly moved to defensive end when entering the NFL. In 1979, Dean was named to his first Pro Bowl and was then named to the All-Pro First Team as well as another Pro Bowl berth in 1980. Dean could not finish his career with the Chargers because he was traded to the 49ers due to a contract dispute. It turned out to be a great move for the 49ers as Dean helped the team win the Super Bowl that season.
In 1983, Dean had a monster season, recording 17.5 sacks, the most in the NFC. Six of those sacks came in a single game against the New Orleans Saints, and it led to him being named to his fourth and final Pro Bowl. In 1985, Dean got his second Super Bowl ring after the 49ers beat the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX.
"I could consider it being born by the Chargers but having a renewal life with the 49ers," Dean said in his Hall of Fame speech as reported by ESPN. "And being with the 49ers, I found that on the other side of that bridge, on the other side was my rainbow, the true ending of a rainbow. Not financially, but with all the people there." Dean retired after the 1985 season. He entered into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008 and was inducted by former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr.