49ers Hall of Famer Hugh ‘The King’ McElhenny dies at age 93 originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
Hugh “The King” McElhenny, known as one of the most exciting open-field runners in NFL history, died on Friday, June 17, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced on Thursday.
McElhenny was 93.
His son-in-law, Chris Permann, told the Hall of Fame that McElhenny died of natural causes and was surrounded by family at his home in Nevada.
“Hugh McElhenny was a threat in all phases of the game offensively – rushing, pass receiving and as a kick and punt returner,” said Hall of Fame president Jim Porter. “His all-around talent-obvious to pro football scouts when Hugh was still a teenager-will be celebrated and preserved forever in Canton.”
McElhenny played 13 NFL seasons, including the first nine with the 49ers. He entered the NFL in 1952 as the ninth overall draft pick from the University of Washington.
McElhenny was a member of the 49ers’ famed “Million Dollar Backfield,” along with quarterback YA Tittle, Joe “The Jet” Perry and John Henry Johnson.
“The 49ers family is heartbroken to learn of the passing of one of the NFL’s all-time greats, Hugh McElhenny,” 49ers co-chair Dr. John York said in a statement.
“Growing up, my favorite team was the 49ers. I remember so many great players from the late ’50s and’ 60s. When I started to invite an alum to every game, my goal was to meet the ‘Million Dollar Backfield.’ Hugh was the last of the four to join us and we remained friends. Hugh is a great part of 49ers history. ”
McElhenny still holds three of the six longest runs from scrimmage in 49ers history with his zig-zagging running style.
He set the team record with a 94-yard punt return against the Chicago Bears in 1952. The mark lasted for 36 years until John Taylor had a 95-yard punt return against Washington in 1988.
After McElhenny’s long punt return, 49ers quarterback Frankie Albert entered the locker room with the game ball and announced McElhenny was “the king of the halfbacks.”
That is how McElhenny received the nickname by which he would forever be known.
McElhenny was named to six Pro Bowls. During his career, he was named Sport Magazine’s NFL Player of the Year, All-Pro twice and Rookie of the Year.
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He was selected as an NFL All-Decade selection for the 1950s. At the time of his retirement, he ranked third with 11,375 all-purpose yards for rushing, receiving and returns.
McElhenny was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 1970. The 49ers retired his No. 39 in 1971.
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