Freddie Solomon was a star receiver and two-time Super Bowl champion

Douglas Martin / New York Times News Service
Published Feb 16, 2012 at 04:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

Freddie Solomon, who gave up his dream of being a professional quarterback to become an outstanding receiver for the Miami Dolphins and a San Francisco 49ers team that won two Super Bowls, died Monday in Tampa, Fla. He was 59.

The 49ers announced his death. He had been treated for colon and liver cancer.

Solomon lives in legend for a pass not thrown to him. It came with less than a minute to play in the National Football Conference championship game between the 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys on Jan. 10, 1982. On a third-down passing play from the Dallas 6, Solomon was quarterback Joe Montana’s first option. But in tight coverage, Solomon slipped, and instead Montana found Dwight Clark in the end zone for the winning score on a reception that came to be called The Catch.

But Solomon had contributed mightily to the drive that led to the touchdown by gaining 14 yards on a reverse and 12 yards on a pass. With the ball on the 13, he got open in the end zone, but Montana threw wide. Then came a running play, then The Catch.

In an 11-year National Football League career, Solomon had 371 receptions for 5,846 yards and 48 touchdowns in 151 games. He ran for 519 yards and four touchdowns.

On Dec. 5, 1976, in a game between the Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills, he scored touchdowns three ways: he ran 59 yards on a reverse to score, caught a 53-yard pass for another touchdown, and returned a punt 79 yards to score again. His total yardage was 252.

Freddie Solomon, the son of a cobbler, was born on Jan. 11, 1953, in Sumter, S.C., and grew up idolizing Joe Namath.

After his retirement from football in 1985, he worked with the Hillsborough County sheriff’s office in Tampa to help disadvantaged youth. Called Coach, he was known for insisting that young men tuck in their shirts.

He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Dee; his mother, Bessie Ruth Solomon; and his brothers, Richard, ONeal and Roger.