The San Francisco 49ers were once saddled with the nickname Prospectors. It didn't stick, maybe because it called to mind a grizzled band of wizened no-hopers who couldn't make a first down much less win a football game. The 49ers, as is evident from the photographs of some of last year's heroes on the following pages, look nothing like Walter Brennan. And they should look even better this year. In 1970 San Francisco reached the National Conference playoffs—its finest NFL season. This year the 49ers move from grim old Kezar Stadium to Candlestick Park, where they will play on "fourth generation Astroturf," a softer version of the Astrodome rug. A good thing, too, because with an improved running game the 49ers will generate a lot of falls. When the whistle blows, the most upright guy in the house is bound to be Quarterback John Brodie (see cover), due in no small part to his large and solicitous linemen, who call themselves "The Protectors." It rhymes with prospectors, but is a better handle if the 49ers are to be the 71ers and mine that Super Bowl gold.
Fleeing upfield is Bruce Taylor, NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year. A cornerback from Boston University, Taylor was the league's second-leading punt returner.
Earl Edwards (right), here brooding on the bench, was one of eight linemen the 49ers rotated on defense.
Tackle Len Rohde (right) & Co. allowed John Brodie to be dumped but eight times in 1970, an NFL record.
September 19, 1971
At 34, craggy Charlie Krueger (70) is the old man of the defensive line. At 22, Cedrick Hardman (86) is the baby.
To gain speed, Ken Willard (40), the team's top rusher, will play at 216 pounds, down 15 from last season.
Middle Linebacker Frank (Fudge Hammer) Nunley stacks up the interference as Roland Lakes, since traded, grabs Green Bay's Jim Grabowski.
Almost the entire team has a hand in subduing the ballcarrier as San Francisco defeats Minnesota in playoffs.
Hardman (right), who goes 6'3" with both feet on the ground, soars above Don Horn to try to deflect his pass.
Doug Cunningham, the 49ers' No. 2 ground-gainer (bottom left), surges through grasping Green Bay defense.
Cradling ball after catching a Brodie pass is Gene Washington, who led NFL receivers in yardage with 1,100.