Hall of Famer Hugh McElhenny Dies of Natural Causes at 93
Member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame sadly passed away on June 17, 2022, at age 93, the Hall of Fame announced Thursday. Hugh McElhenny’s cause of death was reported as a natural cause.
Pro Football Hall of Fame president Jim Porter said; “Hugh McElhenny was a threat in all phases of the game offensively — rushing, pass receiving and as a kick and punt returner,”
“His all-around talent — obvious to pro football scouts when Hugh was still a teenager — will be celebrated and preserved forever in Canton,” Porter added.
49ers co-chair Dr. John York also paid tribute to Hugh, saying: “The 49ers family is heartbroken to learn of the passing of one of the NFL’s all-time greats, Hugh McElhenny,” “Growing up, my favorite team was the 49ers.”
He continued: “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.”
Hugh Edward McElhenny Jr. was born on December 31, 1928, in Los Angeles, California. He was a halfback in the National Football League from 1952 to 1964 for the San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, and New York Giants.
McElhenny was frequently called “the King” and “Hurryin’ Hugh”. He was a member of San Francisco’s famed Million Dollar Backfield and also one of the franchise’s most popular players.
In 1948, the player first rose to stardom as a standout all-around player for Compton Junior College. He transferred to the University of Washington.
He was a two-time All-Pacific Coast Conference fullback for the Washington Huskies football team. Hugh also set several schools and conference records.
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What was Hugh McElhenny’s Cause of Death?
California state champion Hugh McElhenny’s cause of death was announced as natural causes. McElhenny died at his home in Nevada, the Hall of Fame said.
McElhenny was drafted by the 49ers with the ninth pick in the 1952 NFL Draft and earned five first-team All-Pro honors in his first 6 seasons.
With the 49ers, the star was selected for five Pro Bowls, and he earned a 6th Pro Bowl appearance with the Vikings. Hugh finished his professional career after short stints with the Giants and Lions.
He had amassed the third most all-purpose yards of any player in National Football League history when he retired. In 1970, McElhenny was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1981. “Hugh McElhenny was to pro football in the 1950s and early 1960s what Elvis Presley was to rock and roll,” according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
On his enshrinement day in Canton, an emotional McElhenny opened by acknowledging his teammates through his career, as well as his opponents.
McElhenny said: “I want to pay tribute to the athletes that I played with for their second efforts which made my runs successful. and to my opponents for all the mistakes they made to make me look good.”
From 1966 to 1972, after retiring as a player, Hugh served as a color commentator on 49ers radio broadcasts. In 1971, McElhenny signed a contract with a group called the Seattle Sea Lions in hopes of bringing a National Football League franchise to Seattle.
The star proactively named himself general manager of the non-existent “Seattle Kings” in 1972. The next year the franchise gained the backing of Edward Nixon, brother of President Richard Nixon.
The late player was diagnosed with a rare nerve disorder called Guillain–Barré syndrome. McElhenny was temporarily paralyzed from the neck down and used a walker for a year.