Hugh McElhenny, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-1950s team and star halfback for the San Francisco 49ers, died on June 17 at the age of 93, his family confirmed to the Hall of Fame on Thursday.
“Hugh McElhenny was a threat in all phases of the game offensively — rushing, pass receiving and as a kick and punt returner,” Hall of Fame president Jim Porter said in a statement. “His all-around talent — obvious to pro football scouts when Hugh was still a teenager — will be celebrated and preserved forever in Canton.”
McElhenny, known as “The King,” was a two-time first-team All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowler over the course of his 13-year career playing for the 49ers, Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants and Detroit Lions.
“Considered the greatest ‘thrill runner’ of his day, McElhenny ran with a tremendously long stride and high knee action,” his Hall of Fame bio reads. “His breakaway speed and unique ability to change direction at will left defenders dazed and confused.”
A first-round pick out of Washington in 1952, McElhenny enjoyed a spectacular rookie season. He scored a 40-yard touchdown on his first pro play, led the league with 7.0 yards per attempt in his rookie season and earned Rookie of the Year honors. McElhenny was a triple-threat as a runner, pass catcher and returner during his career, recording 60 total touchdowns from all three phases (38 running, 20 receiving, 2 punt return).
McElhenny starred in San Francisco for nine years, a member of the 49ers’ Million Dollar Backfield with Y.A. Tittle, John Henry Johnson and Joe Perry. The back finished his career with two seasons in Minnesota, where he earned a Pro Bowl appearance in 1961, and one each in New York and Detroit.
When he retired after the 1964 season, McElhenny was one of only three players to have gained more than 11,000 all-purpose yards (11,375).
McElhenny was enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 1970.
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