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 dwelling in Henderson, Nev. He was 93.
His daughter Karen Lynn McElhenny confirmed the loss of life on Thursday however didn’t specify a trigger. The Pro Football Hall of Fame additionally introduced the loss of life on Thursday.
McElhenny was a blinding determine on the sphere, twisting and turning as he eluded pissed off defenders on his circuitous romps to the top zone.
“Hugh McElhenny was as good an open-field runner as you’ll ever see,” his teammate Joe Perry, the 49ers’ Hall of Fame fullback, as soon as stated.
“I was best running up the middle, and Hugh was a great outside runner who would zig and zig all over the place,” 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 so much that the same guy would miss him twice on the same run.”
At 6-foot-1 and about 200 kilos, he set a number of speeding 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 towards Southern California. He was an All-American for a workforce that received 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 stated that whereas enjoying for Washington he had frequently acquired money funds and different improper advantages from alumni and workforce boosters totaling near $10,000 a yr (about $115,000 in in the present day’s cash).
“I know it was illegal for me to receive cash, and every month I received cash,” he stated. “I know it was illegal to receive clothing, and I got clothing all the time from stores. I got a check every month, and it was never signed by the same person, so we never really knew who it was coming from. They invested in me every year. I was a movie star up there.”
The 49ers chosen McElhenny as a first-round draft decide and signed him to a $7,000 contract, which meant that he was getting a pay reduce to play professional soccer.
McElhenny stated he obtained his nickname, the King, from the 49er quarterback Frankie Albert after operating again a punt for a 94-yard landing towards the Chicago Bears in his fourth professional sport.
“Albert gave me the game ball and said, ‘You’re now the King,’” he recalled in Joseph Hession’s ebook “Forty Niners: Looking Back” (1985). (The College Football Hall of Fame in contrast him to a different celeb generally known as the King, saying McElhenny was “to pro football in the 1950s and early 1960s what Elvis Presley was to rock and roll.”)
McElhenny was the N.F.L.’s rookie of the yr in 1952, averaging seven yards a carry. Two years later, when he averaged eight yards per run, Albert’s successor at quarterback, Y.A. Tittle, and three others — McElhenny and John Henry Johnson at halfback and Perry at fullback — have been collectively nicknamed the Million Dollar Backfield for his or her offensive energy. All 4 have been finally 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 13 years within the N.F.L.: 9 with the 49ers, two with the Minnesota Vikings, the 1963 season with the Giants and a closing yr 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 turned a soccer celeb at Washington, although the Huskies by no means made it to a bowl sport in his three years there. The funds he acknowledged receiving have been half of a large scandal that led the Pacific Coast Conference to penalize Washington in 1956, together with the University of Southern California, U.C.L.A. 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 N.F.L. 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 yr and was then launched.
He was later half of an funding group that made an unsuccessful bid to acquire an N.F.L. growth franchise for Seattle, the workforce that started play because the Seahawks in 1976.
In addition to his daughter Karen, McElhenny is survived by one other daughter, Susan Ann Hemenway; a sister, Beverly (*93*); 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 U.S.C. 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 towards U.S.C.
McElhenny had ignored his coach’s pleas that he let the soccer go into the top zone for a touchback, giving Washington the ball on the 20-yard line.
“Our coach, Howie Odell, was running down the sideline yelling, ‘Let it go, let it go!,’” he instructed The Seattle Times. “All of a sudden he stopped yelling. It was a stupid play on my part, but it worked out.”
McElhenny as soon as stated that his operating fashion was not one thing he was taught. “It’s just God’s gift,” he stated. “I did things by instinct.”
Maia Coleman contributed reporting.