R.C. Owens, a former 49ers wide receiver who was inducted into the franchise’s Hall of Fame last year, passed away Sunday at the age of 78, the team announced Monday.
Nicknamed “Alley Oop” for his leaping ability, Owens played five of his eight NFL seasons for San Francisco and spent more than two decades in the team’s front office. Owens was with the 49ers from 1957-61 and then went on to play for the Baltimore Colts (1962-63) and New York Giants (1964).
“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.”
Owens totaled 177 receptions for 2,939 yards and 20 touchdowns with San Francisco, and was inducted into the Bay Area Hall of Fame in 2010.
A former college basketball star at the College of Idaho, Owens transferred his skills over to the football field and was notorious for out-leaping defensive backs for high-arching passes from quarterback Y.A. Tittle. Thus, the origin of the term “Alley Oop” was created, and later became more well-known from its use in basketball. He finished his career with 206 catches for 3,285 yards.
“The 49ers are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of R.C. Owens,” said 49ers Chief Executive Officer Jed York.
“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.”
After his playing career ended, Owens spent more than two decades, from 1979-2001, working for the 49ers. In that time, he held various positions for the team, including director of training camp and director of alumni relations.
In retirement, Owens lived with wife Susan in Manteca.