Story by Chris Graham
Virginia Tech is headed to Clemson in a couple of weeks for its ACC road opener.
That’s my excuse for writing about a recent interview that I conducted with Dwight Clark.
I had no idea that the guy known for “The Catch” played at Clemson – until I talked with him.
Neither did I know that Clark, the man on the receiving end of the pass that made San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana famous, wouldn’t tell me that he just snagged the fourth-down pass out of the dead air by sheer chance.
The Niners had practiced the play every week heading into the 1982 NFC championship game against the Dallas Cowboys, said Clark, who played at Clemson from 1975-1978 – and, if he hadn’t been on his end of “The Catch,” might have been best known for being the guy who was dating future “Baywatch” star Shawn Weatherly when she won the Miss Universe title in 1980.
“I mean, we had never in practice thrown it right to that exact spot where I had to jump that high,” Clark said. “But it was one of those plays where Bill Walsh told us, OK, we’ll never run that play on fourth down. So Joe, do not thrown an interception. Throw it high enough to where it either goes out of bounds, or Dwight can jump up and catch it. But you know, don’t throw an interception.”
Per Walsh’s instructions regarding not having the ball intercepted, then, Montana almost always threw it too high in their practice situations.
So when he threw it “right on the button” into the back of the end zone and into Clark’s waiting hands in the final minute against the Cowboys, well …
“I don’t remember thinking about it. I just remember thinking, Boy, that’s pretty high,” Clark said.
“But you know, it’s like one of those things – in the heat of the moment, something helps you make the play. I remember saying after that, It must have been God that helped me get up there and make that catch. Because I know I can’t jump that high,” Clark said.
Chris Graham is the executive editor of The SportsDominion.