“The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Fred Dean,” Hall of Fame President David Baker said in a statement. “He exemplified many of the values learned from this great game — commitment, integrity, courage — over the course of his life. Our thoughts and prayers are with Fred’s wife, Pam, and their entire family. We will forever keep his legacy alive to serve as inspiration for future generations.”
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Dean Went From Lineback to Edge
After his standout collegiate career at linebacker for Louisiana Tech, Dean entered the NFL and was a second-round pick of the San Diego Chargers in 1975.
The Chargers ended up moving him to defensive end, where he became one of the league’ top edge rushers. By 1979 he has landed his first Pro Bowl invitation and the following season moved on to All-Pro and another Pro Bowl.
In 1981, he was traded to the San Francisco 49ers for a second-round draft pick where he made an instant impact.
The 49ers Remember Dean
In his first season with the Niners he recorder 12 sacks in 11 games, except they didn’t count yet since sacks didn’t become a stat until 1982. He also earned himself an All-Pro nod after the 49ers won Super Bowl XVI.
The 49ers franchise remembered Dean in a statement:
The 49ers family is heartbroken to learn of the passing of one of the game’s all-time greats, Fred Dean. 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.
… One of the most feared defenders in the game, he is remembered as a quiet, fun-loving, sincere, country gentleman. Fred’s accolades were numerous, but his love for the game, his teammates and those close to him are what endeared him to so many.
Dean had his best NFL career season in 1983 finishing with 17.5 sacks and top-ranked in the NFC. He also set the record back then recording six in a game against the New Orleans Saints and earned his fourth and final Pro Bowl honor.
Dean Was Inducted Into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008
Dean and the San Francisco 49ers earned another championship in 1985 when they beat the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX.
He retired after the 1985 season, having played 141 games over 11 seasons. Dean eventually made it to Canton, Ohio, on August 2, 2008, when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I could consider it being born by the Chargers but having a renewal life with the 49ers,” Dean said in his Hall of Fame speech, via ESPN. “And being with the 49ers, I found that on the other side of that bridge, on the other side was my rainbow, the true ending of a rainbow. Not financially, but with all the people there.”