SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Dave Wilcox, the legendary San Francisco 49ers linebacker, died Wednesday at 80 years old, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced.
Wilcox spent 11 seasons playing outside linebacker for the 49ers, garnering him a reputation for a fearless playing style that earned him the nickname “The Intimidator.” In his time in San Francisco, Wilcox was a two-time first-team All-Pro, two-time second-team All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowl selection.
“While Dave Wilcox was nicknamed ‘The Intimidator’ for his aggressive style of play, he was a kind, humble and gracious man in all other aspects of life,” Jim Porter, the Hall of Fame president, said in a statement. “He transformed the outside linebacker position — one of the many feats that earned him a forever home in Canton. Our thoughts and prayers are with Dave’s wife, Merle, and their entire family. We will preserve his legacy for generations to come.”
Wilcox, the father of University of California football coach Justin Wilcox, arrived in the NFL at a time when the American Football League was competing for the services of top players. The Houston Oilers selected Wilcox in the sixth-round of the AFL draft and the Niners chose him in the third-round of the NFL draft. He opted to go to San Francisco and quickly established himself alongside Matt Hazeltine to form one of the league’s most fearsome linebacker duos.
Speaking to ESPN in 2020 about the foundation he helped lay for future 49ers linebacking greats such as Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Fred Warner, Wilcox said his favorite part of the game was the preparation. He enjoyed going deep into film study and looking for any clue that might help from how much weight a lineman put on his hands to how tight ends lined up.
That attention to detail was something Wilcox said he always tried to instill in younger players.
“That’s what I loved to do,” Wilcox said then. “I used to tell the guys, where the play was going and all that so they could make the tackle. … And what I used to really love to do is help guys studying and if I could help them, give them tips on when the play was coming or where the play was going. I used to kind of relay that information. I took a lot of pride and interest in doing that.”
When Wilcox was with the 49ers, the team had a grading system for players. As legend has it, the typical score for a linebacker was 750. Wilcox’s score for the 1973 season was 1,306 when he recorded 104 tackles, four forced fumbles and 13 tackles for loss.
During his 11-year career, Wilcox had 14 interceptions and only missed one game of a possible 153 because of injury. He was inducted into the Pro Football of Fame in 2000.
A cause of death for Wilcox has not yet been disclosed.