'Gentle Giant' Fred Dean: 1952 - 2020


The following is a statement from Hall of Fame President & CEO David Baker:

“The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Fred Dean. He exemplified many of the values learned from this great game – commitment, integrity, courage – over the course of his life. Our thoughts and prayers are with Fred’s wife, Pam, and their entire family. We will forever keep his legacy alive to serve as inspiration for future generations. The Hall of Fame flag will be flown at half-staff in Fred’s memory.”

The professional football world is celebrating the life and mourning the passing Wednesday of Fred Dean, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2008.

He was 68.

Dean made an immediate impact on opposing offenses after the San Diego Chargers selected him in the second round (33rd player overall) of the 1975 NFL Draft.

An All-Southland Conference player at Louisiana Tech, the Chargers plugged him into their defensive line. He started 13 of 14 games in his rookie year and never looked back over 11 productive NFL seasons.

His quickness, speed and strength made him one of the league’s most feared pass rushers during his 141-game career. The quarterback sack did not become an official NFL statistic until 1982, but if figures from the Chargers (1975-1980) and San Francisco 49ers (1981-85) are included with his official sack count, Dean’s career total would stand near 100.

As a rookie for the Chargers in 1975, Dean recorded seven sacks and 93 tackles and recovered four fumbles. Combined with a high-flying offense, the team began to reverse its fortunes and soon became a strong playoff contender.

In 1978, Dean recorded 15.5 sacks as the Chargers posted a winning record for the first time since the 1969 season. He followed by adding nine sacks in 1979 and 10.5 in 1980 as San Diego claimed two consecutive AFC Western Division championships.

Dean was selected to appear in the Pro Bowl following both seasons and was named All-Pro in 1980.

He opened the 1981 season with the Chargers but was dealt to the 49ers after five games. He continued to demonstrate his extraordinary talent, contributing 12 sacks in 11 games for the 49ers en route to the team’s first Super Bowl victory and his second All-Pro designation.

In his Enshrinement speech, Dean would says he considered himself “born with the Chargers” and enjoying a “renewal life” with the 49ers.

That rejuvenation would produce Dean’s finest year statistically two seasons after the trade when he led the NFC with a career-high 17.5 sacks. Included in that total was a then-NFL record six sacks in one game. He set the mark during the 49ers’ 27-0 shutout of the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 13, 1983.

In all, Dean played on five division winners. He played in three NFC championship games and in two of San Francisco’s Super Bowl victories (Super Bowls XVI and XIX). Dean earned all-conference honors four times – twice with the Chargers and twice with the 49ers – and was named to four Pro Bowls (1980-1982, 1984).

Eddie DeBartolo Jr., the former 49ers owner who presented Dean at his Enshrinement, called him a “quiet giant” who “when the defense needed him to make a big play … never let us down.”

Debartolo considered Dean a member of the NFL’s “Mount Rushmore of pass rushers,” along with Reggie White, Deacon Jones and Lawrence Taylor.

Fred Dean will be remembered forever, and his legacy will live in Canton, Ohio.

Here are other reactions from across the league: