Hugh McElhenney, an all-1950s Pro Football Hall of Famer and star linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers, died June 17 at the age of 93. His family was confirmed into the Hall of Fame on Thursday.
“Hugh McElhenney has been a threat at every stage of the offensive game – rushing, receiving a pass and hitting back,” Hall of Fame president Jim Porter said in a statement. “His all-round talent, evident to professional football scouts when Hugh was still a teenager, will be celebrated and forever preserved in Canton.”
Known as “The King”, McElhenney played twice on the All-Pro first team and made six Pro Bowler appearances in his 13-year career, playing for the 49ers, Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants and Detroit Lions.
“Considered the greatest “thrilling runner” of his time.McElhenney ran with an incredibly long stride and high knee movement, according to his Hall of Fame biography. “His breakaway speed and unique ability to change direction at will left defenders overwhelmed and confused.”
McElhenney, a first-round pick from Washington in 1952, had an exciting rookie season. He scored a 40-yard touchdown in his first pro game, led the league with 7.0 yards per try in his rookie season, and earned Rookie of the Year honors. McElhenney has been a triple threat as a runner, pass catcher and ball returner throughout his career, recording 60 total touchdowns in all three stages (38 runs, 20 receptions, 2 punt returns).
McElhenney starred in San Francisco for nine years, a member of the 49ers’ Million Dollar Backfield with Y. A. Tittle, John Henry Johnson and Joe Perry. Beck ended his career with two seasons in Minnesota, where he earned a Pro Bowl appearance in 1961, and one each in New York and Detroit.
When he retired after the 1964 season, McElhenney was one of only three players to hit over 11,000 all-purpose yards (11,375).
McElhenney was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1970.