Former San Francisco 49ers halfback Hugh McElhenny passed away on Friday, June 17, 2022 at the age of 93. A Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection (1970) and Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr. Hall of Fame Inductee (2009), McElhenny spent nine seasons with the 49ers (1952-1960) and was a member of the franchise’s famed “Million Dollar Backfield” comprised of McElhenny, Y.A. Tittle, Joe Perry and John Henry Johnson.
“Growing up, my favorite team was the 49ers,” said 49ers Co-Chair Dr. John York. “I remember so many great players from the late 50s and 60s. When I started to invite an alum to every game, my goal was to meet the ‘Million Dollar Backfield.’ Hugh was the last of the four to join us and we remained friends. Hugh is a great part of 49ers history.”
McElhenny was a first-round pick for the 49ers in the 1952 NFL Draft and went on to record 877 carries for 4,288 yards and 35 touchdowns as well as 192 receptions for 2,640 yards and 15 touchdowns in his nine seasons with San Francisco. He immediately made an impression across the league as a rookie. In his first season, McElhenny posted the season’s longest run from scrimmage (89 yards), the longest punt return (94 yards) and the top rushing average (7.0 yards per carry), earning him Rookie of the Year Honors. McElhenny appeared in 97 regular season games (89 starts), made one postseason start and earned five Pro Bowl honors (1952-53, 1956-58) with San Francisco.
Following the 1960 season, McElhenny joined the Minnesota Vikings via the 1961 Expansion Draft. He spent two seasons with Minnesota and picked up one more Pro Bowl selection before joining the New York Giants for the 1963 season and appearing in his first NFL Championship game. In 1964, McElhenny would go on to play for the Detroit Lions before hanging up his cleats at the conclusion of the season. At the time of his retirement, McElhenny was just one of three players to eclipse 11,000 all-purpose yards. He gained a total of 11,375 in his 13-year NFL career. After retiring, he also served as a commentator on 49ers radio broadcasts.
McElhenny attended the University of Washington where he earned First-Team All-American (1951) and All-Pacific Conference (1950-51) honors as a halfback for the Huskies. In addition to being a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the 49ers, McElhenny was also inducted into the State of Washington Sports Hall of Fame in 1963 and the College Football Hall of Fame 1981.