49ers family has lost Forrest Blue and Allan Webb
The colorful name and college pedigree set apart Forrest Blue from others before he ever stepped on the field with the 49ers. But it was wearing the Red and Gold during the team’s first championship era that the four-time Pro Bowler made his legend as one of the top linemen in franchise history and established himself as the team’s best player ever at his position.
The 49ers announced Tuesday that Blue died Saturday at age 65. According to his obituary published Wednesday in the Sacramento Bee newspaper, Blue had dementia and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and spent the last two years of his life at an assisted-living center in the Sacramento area.
It was a sad end for an individual who indelibly carved his niche in 49ers history while defining the role of center in the early 1970s.
San Francisco’s first-round draft pick in 1968, Blue had cemented his place in the Niners’ starting lineup by the next season, beginning a run of success that rivals any by a San Francisco offensive lineman.
Blue established himself among the NFL’s premier centers while collecting first-team All-Pro honors three consecutive seasons from 1971-1973, a stretch during which Blue was the catalyst along an offensive line that played a major role in leading San Francisco to three consecutive NFC West titles from 1970-1972.
Blue is the only center in team history to make it to the Pro Bowl four times, and he accomplished that feat in consecutive seasons from 1971-1974, starting for the NFC at the position three times during that span.
He combined with tackles Len Rohde and Cas Banaszek and guards Randy Beisler and Woody Peoples to give the 49ers a quality veteran offensive line that rivals any ever assembled by the team.
That unit allowed just eight sacks in 1970, giving quarterback John Brodie the protection he needed to win NFL MVP honors that season, and just 11 sacks in 1971. The 49ers ranked among the league’s top three in total offense twice from 1970-1972 and were among the NFL’s top four in passing offense each of those three seasons, leading the league in that category in 1970.
After starting every game for the team from 1969-1973, Blue missed two games the next season but still was named to the Pro Bowl, which turned out to be his final appearance representing the 49ers. But before finishing his 11-year career with the Baltimore Colts from 1975-1978, Blue clearly made his mark as one of San Francisco’s most memorable and accomplished linemen.
Blue appears in several published lists of San Francisco’s top 10 unforgettable linemen, ranking behind only franchise greats Leo Nomellini, Bryant Young, Bob St. Clair, Guy McIntryre, Randy Cross and Cedrick Hardman.
The 49ers selected Blue with the No. 15 overall pick of the 1968 draft after he enjoyed a star-crossed senior season at Auburn, where Blue was team captain and earned All-American honors while appearing in the Senior Bowl and College All-Star games after the season.
Blue spent his rookie season being groomed at center behind long-time 49ers starter Bruce Bosley, a three-time Pro Bowler who started every game for San Francisco at that position from 1964-1968. Bosley’s streak ended with the 1969 season opener, when Blue began his extended stay as the anchor of San Francisco’s line.
Blue, who was raised in Texas, moved to the Sacramento area following his NFL career, working as a general contractor before founding a development company in Penryn. According to his obituary, Blue began showing brain injury symptons during the 1990s and directed his family to donate his brain to research into a degenerative disease linked to athletes with a history of brain trauma.
Blue’s brain will be sent to researchers at Boston University, where the brains of former 49ers greats Joe Perry and John Henry Johnson also were sent after their deaths earlier this year. Perry, the 49ers’ all-time leading rusher, died in April at age 84. Johnson, who joins Perry in the Hall of Fame, died in June at 81. Like Blue, both players endured symptoms of memory loss in years prior to their deaths.
Allan Webb dies at 80
The 49ers family lost another member on Monday when former pro personnel executive Allan Webb died at age 80 of heart failure.
A former NFL player with the New York Giants, Webb re-joined the Giants as a scout in 1972, beginning a career in player personnel that took him to the Cleveland Browns, where he was named director of pro personnel in 1979.
Webb joined San Francisco’s front office in 1983, taking part in four Super Bowl championships during his tenure in the team’s pro personnel department before retiring in 1995.