Hall of Famer, former 49ers great Joe Perry dies

Hall of Fame fullback Joe Perry, the first player with
back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons and nicknamed ”The Jet”
for his sensational speed, died Monday. He was 84.

The San Francisco 49ers announced that Perry, also a World War
II veteran, had died Monday in Arizona of complications from
dementia.

Perry was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1969
following a 16-year NFL career, 14 years with the 49ers and the
other two for the Baltimore Colts.

A three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, Perry still stands
as San Francisco’s all-time leader in yards rushing (7,344) and
touchdowns rushing (50). He led the 49ers in rushing on eight
occasions, including seven consecutive seasons from 1949-1955.

”I was deeply saddened to hear of Joe Perry’s passing earlier
today,” 49ers owner John York said. ”He was a dear friend to my
family and me and to the entire 49ers organization. He was also an
intricate part of our rich history. A truly remarkable man both on
and off the field, Joe had a lasting impact on the game of football
and was an inspirational man to the generations of players that
followed him. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to his wife, Donna,
and his entire family. He will be sadly missed by all of us.”

Perry finished with 9,723 yards rushing on 1,929 carries with 71
touchdowns in 181 career games. He also had 2,021 yards receiving
on 260 catches for 12 touchdowns. He broke the NFL record for most
career yards rushing, a total that was later topped by Jim
Brown.

Perry, who also spent a stint in the Navy and served during
World War II, became the first player with consecutive 1,000-yard
seasons in 1953 and ’54.

The 49ers retired Perry’s No. 34 jersey in 1971.

Perry was a member of ”The Million Dollar Backfield” featuring
four future Hall of Famers in Perry, Hugh McElhenny, John Henry
Johnson and Y.A. Tittle. For three seasons from 1954-56, they
formed a fearsome foursome. The group remains the only full-house
backfield to have all four of its members voted into the Hall of
Fame.

Perry regularly attended enshrinement ceremonies at the Hall of
Fame in Canton, Ohio, supporting 49ers ownership and former
players.

”All of us here at the Pro Football Hall of Fame are extremely
saddened to learn of the passing of the great Joe Perry,” said
Hall president and executive director Steve Perry (no relation).
”Joe was not only a key figure in the history of professional
football, but he was a great friend to us here at the Pro Football
Hall of Fame. He was a frequent visitor to Canton for our annual
enshrinement ceremony as well as many other Pro Football Hall of
Fame events. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to his wife, Donna,
and the entire Perry family.”

Perry and McElhenny also were teammates at Compton Junior
College. Perry scored 22 touchdowns in his first season.

Perry was later discovered by 49ers tackle John Woudenberg while
playing running back for the Alameda Naval Air Station Hell Cats.
Woudenberg promptly told 49ers owner Tony Morabito and head coach
Buck Shaw about Perry, the team said. Perry’s first season with San
Francisco was in 1948. He played for Baltimore from 1961-62, then
wound up back with the Niners in his final season of 1963.

An undrafted free agent, Perry ran for 562 yards and 10
touchdowns as a rookie, averaging 7.3 yards per carry. He dominated
again the next year with 783 yards, eight TDs and a 6.8 yards per
carry average.

In 2007, the team established the Perry/Yonamine Unity Award as
a way to celebrate the franchise’s 65-year history of teamwork
being a focus toward accomplishing goals. The 49ers honor an
exceptional nonprofit agency, youth football coach and a current
49ers player who has demonstrated a commitment to promoting unity
and giving back to the local community. The award is named for
Perry and fellow former 49er Wally Yonamine. The winner in each
category receives a $10,000 grant award to be donated to their
represented organization.

”We are honored to be able to continue to pay tribute to him
through the annual Perry/Yonamine Unity Award recognizing his and
fellow 49ers alumnus, Wally Yonamine’s barrier-breaking
contributions to the 49ers,” York said.

Perry was born Jan. 22, 1927, in Stephens, Ark. Memorial service
arrangements were pending.