Hugh McElhenny, Elusive Hall of Fame Halfback, Is Dead at 93

Hugh McElhenny, a Hall of Fame halfback who was generally known as the King for his thrilling, high-stepping prowess within the soccer world of the Fifties, first with the University of Washington after which with the San Francisco 49ers, died on June 17 at his residence in Henderson, Nev. He was 93.

His daughter Karen Lynn McElhenny confirmed the dying on Thursday however didn’t specify a trigger. The Pro Football Hall of Fame additionally introduced the dying on Thursday.

McElhenny was a stunning determine on the sector, twisting and turning as he eluded pissed off defenders on his circuitous romps to the tip zone.

“Hugh McElhenny was nearly as good an open-field runner as you will ever see,” mentioned his teammate Joe Perry, the 49ers’ Hall of Fame fullback, as soon as.

“I used to be the very best operating up the center, and Hugh was an ideal outdoors runner who would zig and zig all over,” Perry, one of professional soccer’s first Black stars, was quoted as saying by Andy Piascik in “Gridiron Gauntlet” ( 2009), an oral historical past of the sport’s racial pioneers. “Sometimes he zigged and zagged a lot that the identical man would miss him twice on the identical run.”

McElhenny was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1970 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1981. He was additionally named to the NFL’s all-decade crew for the Fifties.

At 6-foot-1 and about 200 kilos, he set a bunch of dashing information for the Washington Huskies, of the Pacific Coast Conference. As a junior he ran for 296 yards and scored 5 touchdowns in a victory over Washington State. As a senior, in 1951, he ran again a punt 100 yards in opposition to Southern California. He was an All-American for a crew that gained solely three video games that season.

By his telling, he was nicely paid for his collegiate exploits. In an interview with The Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 2004, he mentioned that whereas taking part in for Washington he had frequently acquired money funds and different improper advantages from alumni and crew boosters totaling near $ 10,000 a 12 months (about 5 115,000 in immediately’s cash).

“I do know it was unlawful for me to obtain money, and each month I acquired money,” he mentioned. “I do know it was unlawful to obtain clothes, and I acquired clothes on a regular basis from shops. I acquired a verify each month, and it was by no means signed by the identical individual, so we by no means actually knew who it was coming from. They invested in me yearly. I used to be a film star up there. ”

The 49ers chosen McElhenny as a first-round draft decide and signed him to a $ 7,000 contract, which meant he was getting a pay minimize to play professional soccer.

McElhenny mentioned he acquired his nickname, the King, from the 49er quarterback Frankie Albert after operating again a punt for a 94-yard landing in opposition to the Chicago Bears in his fourth professional sport.

“Albert gave me the sport ball and mentioned, ‘You’re now the King,'” he recalled in Joseph Hession’s e book “Forty Niners: Looking Back” (1985). (The College Football Hall of Fame in contrast him to a different superstar generally known as the King, saying McElhenny was “to professional soccer within the Fifties and early Sixties what Elvis Presley was to rock and roll.”)

McElhenny was the NFL’s rookie of the 12 months in 1952, averaging seven yards a carry. Two years later, when he averaged eight yards per run, Albert’s successor at quarterback, YA Tittle, and three others – McElhenny and (*93*) Henry Johnson at halfback and Perry at fullback – had been collectively nicknamed the Million Dollar Backfield for his or her offensive energy. All 4 had been in the end elected to the Hall of Fame.

McElhenny performed in six Pro Bowls, was twice a first-team All-Pro and amassed 11,375 complete yards – operating, catching passes and returning punts, kickoffs and fumbles – in his 12 years within the NFL: 9 with the 49ers, two with the Minnesota Vikings, the 1963 season with the Giants and a last 12 months with the Detroit Lions.

Hugh Edward McElhenny Jr. was born on July 31, 1928, in Los Angeles to Hugh and Pearl McElhenny. He was a soccer and hurdling star in highschool, then performed one season at Compton Junior College within the Los Angeles space.

He grew to become a soccer superstar at Washington, although the Huskies by no means made it to a bowl sport in his three years there. The funds he acknowledged receiving had been half of a large scandal that led the Pacific Coast Conference to penalize Washington in 1956, together with the University of Southern California, UCLA and the University of California, Berkeley, over previous unlawful funds to athletes by supporters.

Following his time with the 49ers and his stint with the Vikings, McElhenny was reunited with Tittle, who had been traded to the Giants by the 49ers in 1961. Tittle took the Giants to an NFL championship sport for the third consecutive time in 1963 – a loss to the Chicago Bears – however McElhenny, coming off knee surgical procedure, gained solely 175 yards that 12 months and was then launched.

He was later half of an funding group that made an unsuccessful bid to acquire an NFL enlargement franchise for Seattle, the crew that started taking part in because the Seahawks in 1976.

In addition to his daughter Karen, McElhenny is survived by one other daughter, Susan Ann Hemenway; a sister, Beverly Palmer; 4 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. His spouse, Peggy McElhenny, died in 2019.

In the spring of 1965, Frank Gifford, McElhenny’s collegiate rival when he performed for USC and later his Giants teammate, threw a retirement occasion for him and narrated movie clips of McElhenny’s spectacular jaunts, together with maybe his most well-known one: the 100-yard punt. return for Washington in opposition to USC

McElhenny had ignored his coach’s pleas that he let the soccer go into the tip zone for a touchback, giving Washington the ball on the 20-yard line.

“Our coach, Howie Odell, was operating down the sideline yelling, ‘Let it go, let it go !,'” he advised The Seattle Times. “All of a sudden he stopped yelling. It was a silly play on my half, nevertheless it labored out. “

McElhenny as soon as mentioned that his operating fashion was not one thing he was taught. “It’s simply God’s present,” he mentioned. “I did issues by intuition.”

Maia Coleman contributed reporting.

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