Charlie Krueger, a rugged defensive tackle who wore a two-bar facemask and whose No. 70 the 49ers retired nearly five decades ago, died Friday. He was 84.
Krueger was a native of Texas, but after his retirement in 1973, he made his home in Clayton (Contra Costa County).
He spent his entire 16-year career with the 49ers and was an inaugural inductee into the Edward J. DeBartolo Sr. 49ers Hall of Fame in 2009.
“One of the longest tenured players in franchise history, Charlie was known as the ‘Textbook Tackle’ for his reputation as a technician and his tremendous strength,” the 49ers said in a statement on Friday.
“He was a tough, resilient and smart player who looked out for his teammates, both on and off the field. We extend our condolences and prayers to his wife, Kris, and the entire Krueger family.”
The 49ers selected Krueger with the No. 9 overall draft pick in 1958. He played in 198 regular-season games — seventh-most in franchise history and No. 2 among all defensive linemen with the organization.
Krueger earned All-Pro recognition three times and was selected to the Pro Bowl twice. He was a key member of the 49ers teams that won three consecutive NFC West titles from 1970 to '72.
“How can I describe Charlie? Very, very intense,” the late Len Rohde, a longtime teammate, said of Krueger in the 2005 book, "San Francisco 49ers: Where Have You Gone."
Rohde added, “Back then, he was in love with it — or in love with some part of it. Whatever Charlie did, he did with 110-percent intensity.”
But all those games took a toll on Krueger. Four years after his career ended, he realized he sustained permanent damage to his knee while playing through injuries with the assistance of painkillers and steroids for medicinal purposes.
He filed a lawsuit and the 49ers were found liable for fraudulent concealment for not informing him of the possible risks. The judge ruled in Krueger’s favor, issuing a tentative order for the 49ers to pay $2.6 million in damages. But a settlement was reached in 1992 for a reported $1 million.
Krueger played college ball at Texas A&M under legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, whom Krueger blamed for running off more good players than remained with the program.
During an interview in 2005, Krueger said he did not have the courage to quit his college team. He remained at Texas A&M all four years and was a two-time All-American. He was elected into the Texas A&M Athletic Hall of Fame in 1972 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983.
He said moving onto the pro level was a relief after what he experienced in college.
“It was a lot easier, but football is football,” Krueger said in 2005. “The nature of football is cold. That’s just the way it has to be. I was young, and I see things differently now. My hearing is not as good, but I listen better. My eyes might not be as good, but I see better.”
In his later years, he said he enjoyed fishing and reading. He listed Leo Tolstoy and James Conrad as his favorite authors.