Two-way star Nomellini passes away at 76

General Published on : 1/1/2005

Leo Nomellini, a two-way Hall of Fame player who starred for the San Francisco 49ers from 1950-1963, has died from complications from a stroke. He was 76.

Nomellini died at Stanford Hospital Tuesday, three weeks after entering the hospital.

"It's a shock," said former 49ers offensive tackle Bob St. Clair, who visited Nomellini last week. "We all thought he was coming back."

Nomellini was a two-time All-American at Minnesota and became the 49ers' first NFL draft choice, picked No. 11 in the first round in 1950.

Nomellini, a tackle, played both ways for part of his career and was chosen All-NFL six times, four on defense and twice on offense. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1969 with former 49ers fullback Joe Perry.

He also performed as a professional wrestler during the off-season and once faced Lou Thesz for a world championship in San Francisco.

"I was in his corner," St. Clair told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Thesz won because he was the only one left standing."

After retiring, Nomellini worked in the insurance industry for more than 30 years.

Former 49ers quarterback Y.A. Tittle, who played with Nomellini from 1951-1960, told the newspaper, "Leo was one of the kindest, gentlest, biggest tough men you'd ever want to meet. He was big and strong, a weightlifter."

"More than that though, he was a great human being," Tittle added. "He never had any bad things to say about anyone. He was a guy you could poke fun at, and he'd poke fun at you."

Nomellini is survived by a daughter; a son; a sister; and four grandchildren.