SAN FRANCISCO — Fred Dean, the fearsome pass rusher who was a key part of the launch of the San Francisco 49ers' dynasty, has died. He was 68.
His death on Wednesday night was confirmed Thursday by the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Dean was hospitalized last week with the coronavirus and was on a ventilator and in intensive care, according to former teammate Dwight Hicks.
“The 49ers family is heartbroken to learn of the passing of one of the game’s all-time greats, Fred Dean,” the team said in a statement. “Fred not only impacted countless opposing quarterbacks throughout his career, but also the future of the game of football as one of the NFL’s first true pass rushing specialists.”
Dean was an undersized pass rusher who began his career as a second-round pick with the San Diego Chargers in 1975 and ended it in the Hall of Fame after being named an All-Pro twice and making four Pro Bowls.
Dean was an All-Pro for the Chargers in 1980 but had his biggest impact after being traded to San Francisco during the 1981 season.
The Niners were just starting to take off under coach Bill Walsh and quarterback Joe Montana, and Dean was the final piece they needed to become champions. Dean helped San Francisco win its first Super Bowl following the 1981-82 season.
Dean played four more seasons in San Francisco, winning a second Super Bowl following the 1984 season.
Dean had seven sacks, 93 tackles and four fumble recoveries in his rookie year. His career sack total was 93½, according to the 49ers, but the number is unofficial because sacks were not an official NFL statistic until 1982.
“He exemplified many of the values learned from this great game — commitment, integrity, courage — over the course of his life,” Hall of Fame President and CEO David Baker said.
Dean was inducted into the shrine in 2008.
— Associated Press