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.