Hugh McElhenny, a Corridor of Fame halfback who was often called the King for his thrilling, high-stepping prowess within the soccer world of the Fifties, first with the College of Washington after which with the San Francisco 49ers, died on June 17 at his dwelling in Henderson, Nev. He was 93.
His daughter Karen Lynn McElhenny confirmed the dying on Thursday however didn’t specify a trigger. The Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame additionally introduced the dying on Thursday.
McElhenny was a stunning determine on the sector, twisting and turning as he eluded annoyed defenders on his circuitous romps to the tip zone.
“Hugh McElhenny was pretty much as good an open-field runner as you’ll ever see,” his teammate Joe Perry, the 49ers’ Corridor of Fame fullback, as soon as mentioned.
“I used to be finest operating up the center, and Hugh was an awesome exterior runner who would zig and zig in every single place,” Perry, one in every of professional soccer’s first Black stars, was quoted as saying by Andy Piascik in “Gridiron Gauntlet” (2009), an oral historical past of the sport’s racial pioneers. “Typically he zigged and zagged a lot that the identical man would miss him twice on the identical run.”
McElhenny was elected to the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame in 1970 and the School Soccer Corridor of Fame in 1981. He was additionally named to the N.F.L.’s all-decade staff for the Fifties.
At 6-foot-1 and about 200 kilos, he set a bunch of dashing information for the Washington Huskies, of the Pacific Coast Convention. As a junior he ran for 296 yards and scored 5 touchdowns in a victory over Washington State. As a senior, in 1951, he ran again a punt 100 yards in opposition to Southern California. He was an All-American for a staff that gained solely three video games that season.
By his telling, he was effectively paid for his collegiate exploits. In an interview with The Seattle Publish-Intelligencer in 2004, he mentioned that whereas taking part in for Washington he had frequently acquired money funds and different improper advantages from alumni and staff boosters totaling near $10,000 a 12 months (about $115,000 in at present’s cash).
“I do know it was unlawful for me to obtain money, and each month I acquired money,” he mentioned. “I do know it was unlawful to obtain clothes, and I obtained clothes on a regular basis from shops. I obtained a examine each month, and it was by no means signed by the identical particular person, so we by no means actually knew who it was coming from. They invested in me yearly. I used to be a film star up there.”
The 49ers chosen McElhenny as a first-round draft decide and signed him to a $7,000 contract, which meant that he was getting a pay lower to play professional soccer.
McElhenny mentioned he obtained his nickname, the King, from the 49er quarterback Frankie Albert after operating again a punt for a 94-yard landing in opposition to the Chicago Bears in his fourth professional recreation.
“Albert gave me the sport ball and mentioned, ‘You’re now the King,’” he recalled in Joseph Hession’s ebook “Forty Niners: Trying Again” (1985). (The School Soccer Corridor of Fame in contrast him to a different celeb often called the King, saying McElhenny was “to professional soccer within the Fifties and early Nineteen Sixties what Elvis Presley was to rock and roll.”)
McElhenny was the N.F.L.’s rookie of the 12 months in 1952, averaging seven yards a carry. Two years later, when he averaged eight yards per run, Albert’s successor at quarterback, Y.A. Tittle, and three others — McElhenny and John Henry Johnson at halfback and Perry at fullback — have been collectively nicknamed the Million Greenback Backfield for his or her offensive energy. All 4 have been in the end elected to the Corridor of Fame.
McElhenny performed in six Professional Bowls, was twice a first-team All-Professional and amassed 11,375 complete yards — operating, catching passes and returning punts, kickoffs and fumbles — in his 13 years within the N.F.L.: 9 with the 49ers, two with the Minnesota Vikings, the 1963 season with the Giants and a remaining 12 months with the Detroit Lions.
Hugh Edward McElhenny Jr. was born on July 31, 1928, in Los Angeles to Hugh and Pearl McElhenny. He was a soccer and hurdling star in highschool, then performed one season at Compton Junior School within the Los Angeles space.
He turned a soccer celeb at Washington, although the Huskies by no means made it to a bowl recreation in his three years there. The funds he acknowledged receiving have been a part of a large scandal that led the Pacific Coast Convention to penalize Washington in 1956, together with the College of Southern California, U.C.L.A. and the College of California, Berkeley, over previous unlawful funds to athletes by supporters.
Following his time with the 49ers and his stint with the Vikings, McElhenny was reunited with Tittle, who had been traded to the Giants by the 49ers in 1961. Tittle took the Giants to an N.F.L. championship recreation for the third consecutive time in 1963 — a loss to the Chicago Bears — however McElhenny, coming off knee surgical procedure, gained solely 175 yards that 12 months and was then launched.
He was later a part of an funding group that made an unsuccessful bid to acquire an N.F.L. growth franchise for Seattle, the staff that started play because the Seahawks in 1976.
Along with his daughter Karen, McElhenny is survived by one other daughter, Susan Ann Hemenway; a sister, Beverly Palmer; 4 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. His spouse, Peggy McElhenny, died in 2019.
Within the spring of 1965, Frank Gifford, McElhenny’s collegiate rival when he performed for U.S.C. and later his Giants teammate, threw a retirement social gathering for him and narrated movie clips of McElhenny’s spectacular jaunts, together with maybe his most well-known one: the 100-yard punt return for Washington in opposition to U.S.C.
McElhenny had ignored his coach’s pleas that he let the soccer go into the tip zone for a touchback, giving Washington the ball on the 20-yard line.
“Our coach, Howie Odell, was operating down the sideline yelling, ‘Let it go, let it go!,’” he instructed The Seattle Instances. “Unexpectedly he stopped yelling. It was a silly play on my half, however it labored out.”
McElhenny as soon as mentioned that his operating fashion was not one thing he was taught. “It’s simply God’s present,” he mentioned. “I did issues by intuition.”
Maia Coleman contributed reporting.