R.C. Owens, a longtime 49ers front office man and eight-year NFL wide receiver whose impressive leaping ability earned him the nickname ”Alley Oop” and helped popularize the basketball phrase, died Sunday at age 77.
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The Niners, his team for the first five of his NFL seasons, announced Owens’ death on Monday. The team said he died Sunday and had been living in Manteca, about 75 miles east of San Francisco.
”The 49ers family has suffered a great loss with the passing of R.C. Owens,” 49ers Owner and Chairman John York said. ”Long after his days as a player were over, his devotion to the organization remained strong. R.C. was an ever-present supporter of the 49ers Foundation and did great works with the community at large. The San Francisco 49ers and our faithful fans will forever be grateful for his contributions and he will be sincerely missed.”
The 6-foot-3 Owens, a college basketball star at the College of Idaho, also played two seasons for the Baltimore Colts, and his final year was with the New York Giants in 1964. He had 206 career receptions for 3,285 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also ran for a score.
Owens, elected into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame in 2010, was selected by the 49ers in the 14th round of the 1956 draft, 160th overall.
After retirement, Owens worked from 1979 to 2001 for the 49ers in a variety of positions, including director of training camp and director of alumni relations. The 49ers said he loved his role of entertaining and caring for players’ families while the players practiced.
When San Francisco held training camp in Stockton from 1998 to 2002, Owens started a summer reading program in schools while doubling as the 49ers training camp director. That program recruited more than 10,000 kids from San Joaquin County into reading programs. Current and former players have kept such reading programs in place, including one at Shasta Elementary in Manteca where he lived.
”The 49ers are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of R.C. Owens,” 49ers CEO Jed York said. ”While his accomplishments on the field are well celebrated, his contributions to our organization and the Bay Area community are equally as impressive. As a player and a member of the 49ers front office, R.C. was a tremendous ambassador for our team. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to his friends, family, teammates and fans.”
Owens was born on Nov. 12, 1934, in Shreveport, La. He is survived by his wife, Susan.