Former 49ers tight end Greg Clark, a third-round pick in the 1997 NFL Draft, died Wednesday, July 7. He was 49.
“Our organization is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Greg Clark,” the 49ers said in a statement released Friday afternoon. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”
A cause of death was not disclosed, but a statement from the family stated Clark died unexpectedly and might have been suffering from effects of head injuries sustained during his football career.
“His recent suffering from CTE symptoms cannot extinguish the breadth and depth of his impact on us and others, and we are forever grateful for the time we have had with him,” the statement read. “It is our hope that through further research we can gain more knowledge surrounding CTE.”
Clark was a star at Stanford before the 49ers traded up to select him with the No. 77 overall pick in the draft. He was the sixth tight end selected in 1997.
Clark played four NFL seasons with the 49ers and started 39 of the 55 games in which he appeared before his career was cut short due to injuries. He caught 92 passes for 909 yards and four touchdowns in his regular-season career.
In the 1998 playoffs, Clark caught two touchdown passes from Steve Young against the Green Bay Packers in a game best remembered for Terrell Owens’ last-second touchdown catch from Young to pull off a 30-27 victory at Candlestick Park.
Clark endured a series of setbacks in his career, including a medical mishap that turned into a serious situation.
Clark sustained a punctured lung while receiving a painkilling injection before a 1999 game against the Minnesota Vikings. He told NBC Sports Bay Area last year that he remembered thinking something was wrong early in the game but he continued to play.
“I’d been complaining pretty early on that either someone spiked the water or the towels got washed weird because I could taste that lidocaine or novocaine, whatever they use,” Clark said. “But when they injected that, it obviously went to my lungs.
“So I’d been complaining to Dave Fiore and some other players, ‘Man, do you taste that in the water?’ And they were like, ‘No, no.’ So I just kept playing.”
After he caught a pass from his former Stanford teammate, Steve Stenstrom, with 5:27 remaining in the 49ers’ 40-16 loss, Clark alerted a team doctor that he could not breathe. He was rushed to a hospital and after some tense moments, a staff member in the emergency room was able to break through his rib cage and get his condition stabilized.
Clark spent a week in Minneapolis before he was cleared to fly home. He was back on the field for the 49ers' next game.
Clark was described as a dedicated father of three sons and a loving husband to Carie, his wife of 23 years. Clark lived in Danville and worked in investment real estate in the East Bay.
Clark was born in Centerville, Utah, on April 7, 1972. He was the eldest of eight siblings (seven boys, one girl).
Before going on to Stanford, Clark attended and played for Ricks College, where he was a consensus junior college All-American. He served a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Peoria, Illinois.
The family asks that donations in Greg Clark's memory be made to Boston University for the research of CTE. Click here for more information.