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Former San Francisco 49ers Pro Bowler Len Rohde dies at 79

By
The Sports Xchange
Former 49ers Pro Bowler Len Rohde passed away over the weekend. He was 79. Photo courtesy San Francisco 49ers/Twitter.
Former 49ers Pro Bowler Len Rohde passed away over the weekend. He was 79. Photo courtesy San Francisco 49ers/Twitter.

Former San Francisco 49ers tackle and Pro Bowl selection Len Rohde died Saturday at age 79.

Rohde played 15 seasons with the 49ers from 1960 to 1974. He appeared in 208 games and made 173 starts, the third-most regular-season appearances and the most for an offensive lineman in franchise history.

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The 49ers won NFC West titles from 1970 to 1972, and their offense led the NFL in points scored and total yards in 1965 and 1970.

The Palatine, Ill., native played college football at Utah State and was drafted by the 49ers in the fifth round (59th overall) in 1960. He was a team captain, MVP and all-conference player with the Aggies.

When Rohde joined the 49ers, he was a two-way player who had trouble at least initially finding his way. He went back and forth between offensive tackle and right defensive end.

In 1962, Rohde started the season opener against the Chicago Bears at defensive end, but he had a rough day and the following week was switched back to offense.

"I figured it was all over, my career was over," Rohde said in "The Game of My Life: San Francisco 49ers" by Dennis Georgatos. "I mean, how many opportunities do you get? I knew I had been struggling on offense, so I didn't think I had a chance. I was about as low as you could go. ...

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"At that point, I figured I'd wait out the season and if the 49ers didn't want me, (I'd go) play defense for somebody somewhere. I knew I could rush the passer."

His big break came when tackle Bob St. Clair sustained a season-ending Achilles injury and Rohde went in to replace him. He was matched up against defensive end Deacon Jones of Los Angeles Rams' Fearsome Foursome fame and held his own in the 49ers' 24-17 win.

After that performance, Rohde went on to spend the next 13 years mostly at left tackle. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 1971 and won the Len Eshmont Award, given to the 49ers player who exemplifies inspiration and courage, in 1974.

Rohde blocked for teams that featured quarterback John Brodie and running backs Joe Perry, Ken Willard, J.D. Smith and Hugh McElhenny, all of whom are among the top 10 rushers in franchise history.

In 1969, Rohde earned a master's degree at San Jose State University and moved into the restaurant business as a franchise owner after his retirement as a player. He also was among three generations of farmers who produced Templeton Olive Oil.

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