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THE DOGGONE BEST

Sept. 01, 1982
Sept. 01, 1982

Table of Contents
Sept. 1, 1982

College Football '82
Scouting Reports
Pro Football '82

THE DOGGONE BEST

San Diego's Kellen Winslow (left) and San Francisco's Dwight Clark, the NFL's top two receivers in 1980 and '81, proved they are a breed apart during last season's playoffs

Perhaps the toughest question San Diego's Kellen Winslow and San Francisco's Dwight Clark raise for NFL observers is this: Which would you rather be, an "All-Universe" receiver or a receiver whose girlfriend is Miss Universe?

This is an article from the Sept. 1, 1982 issue Original Layout

The question, of course, isn't entirely fair. Winslow, the Chargers' 6'5½", 242-pound "All-Universe" tight end—as decreed by ABC's Monday Night Football announcers—lives with a very pretty woman, too, his bride of eight months, Katrina McKnight Winslow. And Clark, who keeps company with Shawn Weatherly, Miss Universe 1980—as decreed by a panel of international judges in Seoul, South Korea—is something of a receiver himself.

Indeed, last year Clark and Winslow became the second and third pros ever to catch 80 or more passes in two consecutive seasons. Clark had 82 in 1980 and 85 in '81; Winslow had 89 and 88 in those years. Only the Denver Broncos' Lionel Taylor, with 92 receptions in 1960 and 100 in '61, caught more in a two-year stretch, and his record was set in the infancy of the AFL, when that league was an aerial circus.

At least as important as the number of passes Winslow and Clark catch—excluding running backs, they were one-two in receptions in the NFL the past two seasons—is the manner in which they are deployed in the league's two most intriguing passing attacks. Winslow is called a tight end, but that's misleading. Lining up much of the time as a wingback, fullback or wide receiver instead of as a tight end, and then, as often as not, going into motion before the snap, Winslow has created a hybrid football position. "If you have to label what I am, just call it receiver," he says.

Clark, too, moves freely about in the 49ers' offense. At 6'4" and 210 pounds, he's bigger than almost any other NFL wide receiver and rugged enough to play tight end and block on the goal line. He's quick enough to run the end-around and skilled enough to throw a pass off that play, which he did once last year. Most important, he performs for an offensive wizard of a coach. Bill Walsh. "It would be difficult to misuse Kellen Winslow's talents," says Chicago Bear All-Pro Safety Gary Fencik. "But Dwight Clark doesn't have the assets of a first-round pick. He's an overachiever, and he happens to be in the right place at the right time. When we play the 49ers, my computer inside goes berserk because their offense is so unpredictable."

Both Clark and Winslow were born in 1957, drive Mercedes and are entering their fourth year in the NFL. They both have sung in pop bands and own huge TVs, and when they met at this year's Pro Bowl, they found they liked each other. One day not long ago Clark sat with Weatherly at a seafood restaurant on San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf. After a few minutes he looked up from his menu and declared, "Clam chowder, Journey [a rock group] and Kellen Winslow—that's what I love."

Winslow admires Clark's soft hands, aggressiveness and total concentration afield. "As players, Dwight and I are a lot alike," says Winslow. "We may not be great in any one area, but we're not lousy in any either. What we have to offer is the total package."

It was during the playoffs last season that the two total packages burst open and showed national TV audiences what makes them pro football's top two receivers. Winslow's and Clark's transcendent moments are now referred to, simply and rather banally, as The Game and The Catch, respectively. On consecutive weekends, Winslow and then Clark displayed character, skill and the sort of unthinking, physical adaptiveness we like to call grace. In the process they thrilled us as no one else in the NFL did last season.

THE GAME

The air in the Orange Bowl at the start of the Miami-San Diego AFC divisional playoff game last January was 79°, still and humid. Winslow is a heavy perspirer under normal conditions, but on the floor of the Orange Bowl he was excreting fluids like a fountain. By the second quarter he was spending all of his time between offensive series drinking water, and by the third quarter he was sucking oxygen from a tank behind the bench. At half-time he considered changing into a dry T shirt and jersey, but didn't. "I was too tired," he says.

The Chargers raced to a 24-0 first-quarter lead, and it looked as though a rout was on. But in the third quarter the Dolphins tied the score 24-24, and it became clear that the game was turning into a classic and that Winslow was going to be its centerpiece.

In the first half, Winslow had caught five passes for 55 yards, despite blanket coverage. He was getting battered at the line on every play and gang-tackled each time he touched the ball. On one play Miami Safety Glenn Blackwood wrung Winslow's right leg as if it were a drumstick he was trying to rip off a chicken. Another time three defenders pounded Winslow into the ground while a fourth wrenched his face mask, drawing a penalty. The beating was taking its toll. Winslow's forehead was bruised, his right shoulder kept going numb, his lip had a cut that would require four stitches to close. But more than anything, he was exhausted.

"You've got to remember that Kellen's a big man and that we send him in motion a lot of the time," says San Diego Receiver Coach Ernie Zampese. "Against Miami he was often running 30 or 40 yards before the ball was even snapped."

After one block in the third quarter Winslow's shoulder again went dead, and he came to the sideline for assistance. He' had already broken two sets of shoulder pads and now was wearing a set belonging to teammate Hank Bauer. Bauer's hairline is rapidly receding, and Winslow recalls thinking through his pain, "My shoulder will go bald."

Winslow had to be helped to the sideline three times during the game, but each time he returned immediately to catch another pass. "I didn't hesitate to throw to Kellen," says San Diego Quarterback Dan Fouts. "We were all tired, but I have to assume that anybody who's in the huddle with me is ready to go."

In the third quarter Winslow caught a 25-yard touchdown pass to give the Chargers a 31-24 lead. Always exuberant after a score, Winslow this time tried to spike the ball over the goalpost crossbar. He missed and fell down. Soon after, his legs began cramping.

"Mentally I was pretty alert, but physically I was gone," tie says. "I thought I was moving at a good speed when I went in motion, but when I saw the films, I realized I was walking."

The Dolphins eventually tied the game at 38-38, and with only seconds left in regulation time they lined up for what should have been the winning field goal. In desperation Charger Coach Don Coryell sent Winslow into the game. Winslow blocked the kick.

In overtime Winslow searched for the oxygen behind the Chargers' bench. It was gone, removed for unknown reasons by maintenance men. The television audience was treated to closeups of the gasping, grass-stained, soaking wet tight end, and later some viewers would feel they had been given theatrics. "Maybe on TV I looked worse than I really was," says Winslow. "But if I was faking it, I deserve an Academy Award."

When Rolf Benirschke finally kicked the winning field goal for San Diego, Winslow was blocking and didn't see it. He dropped face down on the sod, cramping from neck to calf, "ready to cry." He assumed the Chargers had won only because of the silence in the stadium. A Dolphin asked Winslow if he wanted a hand getting up. Winslow said no thanks and stayed where he was. Eventually, two Chargers helped him off the field. In the locker room, trainers covered him with cold towels to bring down his temperature, which was more than 100°, and Winslow fell asleep for a while. Despite drinking constantly throughout the game, he had lost 12 pounds.

Winslow caught 13 passes—a playoff record—in the four-hour, three-minute game for 166 yards and a touchdown. He blocked superbly. On a Miami interception he tackled interceptor Lyle Blackwood, who as he fell lateraled to teammate Gerald Small. Winslow quickly righted himself and tackled Small, too. After the game, Miami Coach Don Shula, normally a man of restraint, told reporters, "When you think about Winslow, you think Superman."

THE CATCH

Even though San Francisco had whipped Dallas 45-14 earlier in the year, the Cowboys seemed confident that they would win the rematch with the 49ers for the NFC Championship. After all, how seriously could they take an opponent that had finished 2-14 just two years before? But, then, how could the Dallas braintrust underestimate Clark? In the previous Cowboy-49er game Clark had caught four passes for 135 yards and a touchdown. In the playoff game he caught eight passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns, including The Catch.

Clark, who was drafted in the 10th round out of Clemson, had fooled the experts before. "He's a big, tall white kid," says 49er Quarterback Coach Sam Wyche. "So people figure he can't be fast or that tough." But Clark has run the 40 in 4.6; in the first Dallas game he turned a 10-yard out pattern into a 78-yard touchdown by outracing two defensive backs across "the swamp," as he calls the center of the Candlestick Park gridiron, and into the far corner of the end zone. And as for toughness, Clark enrages opponents because of his kamikaze downfield blocking. "He just infuriates defensive backs," says 49er Running Back Coach Billie Matthews. "He'll get into a little something with one of them about every game."

One thing that makes Clark hard to appraise is his running style. His nickname on the 49ers is Herk, which comes from herky-jerky, which describes the way he stutters his way through pass patterns. "Dwight's routes aren't fluid," says Wyche. "They're abrupt, with a lot of starts and stops and sudden changes in direction and body leans and shoulder fakes. All the action looks awkward to a defensive back, but the back reacts to it. He can't help himself."

In the first half of the NFC Championship game Clark gave a demonstration of what being herky-jerky can do to a defender. He ran a three-move, double-post pattern on Cornerback Dennis Thurman that sent Thurman spinning off toward Sausalito by way of Oakland. "They were blitzing and I threw the ball low, but Dwight was alone in the end zone and he cradled it for a touchdown," says Quarterback Joe Montana. "Later we watched the game film and it was amazing because Thurman never even appeared on the screen."

In a seesaw game, Dallas took a 27-21 lead early in the fourth period. With 58 seconds to play, San Francisco had the ball on the Dallas six-yard line, third-and-three. Walsh called Montana to the sideline and told him to run the Sprint Right Option.

The Sprint Right Option, as everyone in the free world now surely knows, is the play in which Montana rolls right with the option to run or pass; Flanker Freddie Solomon, lined up on the left side of the formation, cuts right to the flag; and Clark, on the right side, drives downfield, turns sharp left and then slides from left to right in the end zone should Solomon, the primary receiver, be covered. The Dallas end zone was ringed with cameras as this Sprint Right Option unfolded, and all were clicking as Clark leaped high and stretched to snare a pass that everyone in Candlestick Park thought was being thrown away.

Clark remembers only fragments of The Catch—the fear he'd jumped too soon; the way the ball bounced off his fingertips, obliging him to recatch it; the thought that maybe Montana was heaving the ball out of bounds. "Dwight used all his ability on that play," says Walsh.

The Catch propelled San Francisco into the Super Bowl and has made a famous and much-photographed man of the dashing, white-toothed Clark. He still can't quite get a handle on what happened that day, on how a midair 10th of a second could mean so much to so many. But whenever the crush of the autograph hounds and the praise of the writers and the flacks threaten to inflate Clark's opinion of himself, he knows enough to ask himself one question. "I just say, 'Dwight, what if you'd dropped that thing?' "

BASKETBALL

At a pickup game in a San Diego gym, Winslow rises above his defender and lofts a 15-foot jumper that drops softly through the net. Winslow has made a few thundering slams earlier in the game, but this is nicer than the jams, this touch coming from such a big man.

Winslow is a specimen—not only big, but also amazingly talented. "I've never seen anybody with his athletic ability," says Fouts. "I think he may be the best football player in the game, at any position. And I'm not saying that to cause controversy, just as a description. He can throw a football 80 or 100 yards." Chargers owner Gene Klein was so convinced of Winslow's skills and the role he could play in the then budding Air Coryell Show that when the Chargers worked a last-second deal with Cleveland for the draft choice used to pick Winslow in the first round in 1979, Klein took most of the Chargers' scouting staff out to celebrate.

San Diego Strong Safety Pete Shaw complains, as all players who must cover Winslow do, that it's unfair to have to guard a man who can outjump, outmuscle, outrun and outfinesse you for the ball. "In practice one day Kellen got mad at me for grabbing his arms on overthrown balls," says Shaw, "but I told him, 'Kellen, how do I know what you can't catch?' " Mismatches, of course, are one of the most crucial aspects of pro football. "I don't feel any remorse for lining up out wide," says Winslow. "I know I'm resented for it. Defensive backs call me a sissy and say, 'Get back in there where you belong.' But it's like telling Earl Campbell he can't run because he's too big."

There are, after all, tight ends in the league who are heavier and taller and stronger and faster than Winslow. New England's Don Hasselbeck is 6'7", for instance; Pittsburgh's Benny Cunningham weighs 260. But what none of them has is Winslow's gracefulness. "He has this softness that's like a wide receiver or a basketball player," says Shaw. "He doesn't think like a tight end. He thinks, 'I'm going to catch the ball and run,' while most tight ends are looking for a place to fall down."

And how Winslow loves to run. "One of my most satisfying feelings is to have the ball and suddenly be in the open," he says. "Then it's like pinball, bouncing along from one man to another. I love that challenge. And I thrive on the fact that I can run around a man or run over him."

So does Air Coryell. This most potent of NFL offenses—it led the league last year in first downs, scoring, third-down efficiency, average yards per play and total offense—lives by two dicta: The ball travels faster by air than land, and the ball travels farther in your best players' hands. Thus, the ball is often in Winslow's hands. His 88 receptions in '81 were one fewer than the NFL record for tight ends, a mark Winslow had set the year before. And among all receivers, only the Rams' Tom Fears, with 212 in 1948, '49 and '50, caught more passes in his first three pro seasons than Winslow, who had 202 receptions despite catching only 25 passes in his rookie year when he broke a leg in the seventh game.

"He probably would have had 60 that season," says Coryell. "I'm sure he could catch 100 passes in a year—that's less than one more a game than last season. But we don't want somebody to catch 200 passes and average four yards a catch. We think yardage per pass play is the important figure."

Well, last year San Diego led the NFL in that category, too. Winslow went for 12.2 yards per reception, a big number for a tight end. The other San Diego receivers have hardly suffered because of Winslow's presence. Last season Wes Chandler (1,142 yards), Charlie Joiner (1,188) and Winslow (1,075) became only the second trio of teammates to catch passes for more than 1,000 yards apiece in a season. Winslow, Joiner and then Charger John Jefferson were the first, in 1980.

All the San Diego receivers abet one another, but it's Winslow who gives Air Coryell its special punch, its scariness. "All teams have tendencies from certain formations," says Zampese. "But by moving Kellen around we're able to eliminate a defense's pre-snap thought. I mean, when he's out wide he's a wide receiver, but when he's in tight he's something else." In tight he's a fearsome, if underrated, blocker. "He's overlooked as a blocker only because he's so good at everything else," says Fouts. "But that's really the key to our whole offense: Kellen's ability to block."

The skills Winslow brings to the game seem to overwhelm the football lexicon and therefore are described most often in the terminology of another sport, basketball. As Zampese puts it, "What he's most like is a power forward in the NBA."

As a freshman at Clemson in 1975, Clark, a high school quarterback, suddenly became a strong safety. He hated the position and decided to transfer to another school. In the spring of 76, however, the Clemson coaches allowed Clark to play receiver. If they hadn't, Clark would have gone off to Appalachian State—on a basketball scholarship.

At a charity hoops game between the 49ers and the Stanford football team in May, Clark showed that he hasn't lost his skills on court. He threw in bombs from the corners and pulled in bombs from Montana and turned them into breakaway buckets. One thing Clark didn't do was crash the boards when the Stanford defensive line entered the game.

"I take enough pounding during the season," Clark said later. He then recalled last year's Green Bay game when he caught a pass and took one shot after another before going down. "The announcers said on TV, 'See how it takes four or five men to tackle Dwight Clark!' " he says. "But that was because I didn't know what was happening. When I got to our bench, the doctor said, 'You're O.K. because you know where you are.' I said, 'Right.' But I had no idea where I was. I saw all these people around, but what did that mean? Finally I saw the scoreboard and realized I must be at a football game."

It's because of Clark's toughness and his basketball player's agility that he is used the way he is in the 49er offense. "We call on him in clutch situations," says Wyche. "He makes those critical third-down catches, the ones against tight man or double coverage, when everybody in the park knows it's going to Dwight Clark. And because of that he probably takes more hits than any receiver we've got, and from bigger players, too, because so many of his patterns are run underneath."

Tenths, even 100ths of a second count these days in NFL passing schemes. Zone defenses and the quick reactions of the men playing them have made such things as gentle throws and fiat-footed receptions obsolete. Basketball moves, evolved in a more frantic game, are now the receivers' stock in trade—picks, body screens, reading on the fly, rebounding in a crowd. And everybody goes and gets the ball. Arm catching is out. Among the best receivers, so is hand catching. Fingertip catching, as practiced by men like Clark, is where it's at. "He's got good, soft hands, really big hands," says Montana. "And the way he comes back and reaches for the ball means he can catch almost anything."

Montana is still in awe of The Catch. "I was on the ground and I thought at first everybody was cheering just for the touchdown," he says. "Later, I saw the replay and realized they were cheering for Dwight's catch. God, did he get up there. Did you know he can dunk a basketball two-handed from a standing start?"

GETTING THERE

Kellen Winslow was raised in East St. Louis, Ill., a dreary town once filled with industry that was rated dead last in economic and social conditions among American cities in a 1978 Brookings Institution study. The third of Homer (a transit supervisor) and Odell Winslow's seven children, Kellen was able to stay afloat as a youth by keeping to himself and his family. "I wasn't into the things I saw going on around me," he says. "I was shy and insecure, and I felt best with my little clique or at home."

Against Kansas City last year Winslow tried to show his appreciation for his parents' stern, protective upbringing. He found out where his mom and dad were seated in the Chiefs' Arrowhead Stadium, and after catching a touchdown pass, he wound up and threw the ball halfway up the stands, missing his parents by only two rows.

Winslow detests the dumb jock image that goes with his size and profession, mainly because it clashes with the egghead image he pursued at East St. Louis High. A star member of the chess club, he played no sports until his senior year (except for baseball as a sophomore), curried his teachers' favor, lived for geography and history classes, and cut a social swath so narrow that "nobody even knew I existed." At the University of Missouri, where he was a consensus All-America, he kept up the bookwork by majoring in counseling psychology, a field in which he plans to earn his doctorate after football.

But if Winslow was, in his own words, "a nice quiet kid, a nerd" in high school, with his CHESS NUTS T shirt and after-school job at United Parcel Service, he was also a classic late bloomer. Cornelius Perry, Winslow's phys ed teacher and the East St. Louis football coach, made it his project to get Winslow into pads. "He was a natural athlete, that was easy to see," says Perry, now a counselor at the school, "but he lacked confidence. I had to make him see that there were better things ahead." What Perry did was scratch Winslow's then well-hidden pride. "He generated in me the feeling that I wanted to be known as more than just Donna Winslow's little brother, which was all I was then," says Winslow.

The 1974 East St. Louis football team, with Winslow as its novice senior tight end, went undefeated in the regular season and finished second in the state, losing the championship game in overtime to Glenbrook North, a suburban Chicago school. East St. Louis had a chance to win in regulation time, but Winslow dropped two last-second passes. As new to pressure as he was to defeat, Winslow cried bitterly in the locker room.

In the state outdoor track meet in 1975, Winslow, again participating in a new sport, was a favorite to win the discus, but he failed even to make the finals. "I saw all the people along the boundaries and I choked," he says. The day after the track meet, he was in a car accident in which he sustained several facial injuries and nearly lost his left eye. The eye healed. Had it not, Winslow's athletic and emotional development would have been arrested at an especially untimely point. Even now Winslow is still coming out of the shell that nearly had him "going to a junior college in St. Louis and throwing my life into UPS."

"I honestly didn't expect him to be this good so quickly," says Perry, noting that Winslow has played only eight years of football, the same amount as some high school seniors. Winslow isn't exactly cocky these days, but the pride is more up front and the resolution firm. He'll says such things as, "I absolutely refuse to be pushed around on the field," or "I think I can be as good as I want to be," and mean them. Every great performance he has—such as the NFL record-tying five touchdowns he caught against Oakland last November—puts his psyche more in sync with his talents and the responsibilities that go with them.

"He's bright, competitive and just egotistical enough to want to be the best," says Fouts. "And he's just blossoming."

One of the luckiest things that ever happened to Clark was to have Quarterback Steve Fuller as his college teammate and friend. Fuller, a 1979 first-round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs, didn't throw Clark a lot of passes at Clemson. The 49ers' 1981 press guide shows Clark with 55 collegiate receptions for 845 yards, figures Clark contests, saying, "I know I caught fewer than 40." He's right. He actually caught 33 passes for 571 yards. But Fuller did shed some light on his good buddy. When NFL scouts came to assess Fuller's arm in tryouts, Fuller always chose Clark as his target.

Walsh showed up in the spring of 1979 looking for a quarterback (he would end up taking Notre Dame's Montana in the third round) and, if any were about, a receiver "in the Chip Myers style." Walsh, then an assistant to Paul Brown, had coached the tall, sturdy, sure-handed Myers in Cincinnati in the early '70s. "We needed a man like Chip because a lot of plays I use had been designed for him," says Walsh. "It didn't have to be a huge man, but it had to be somebody who was very smart, had stamina, could adjust patterns, deal with linebackers and concentrate in traffic."

Enter Clark, direct from an 11-catch senior season and subsequent surgery on his left shoulder. He caught all of Fuller's passes that day, and Walsh went away thinking he'd found a sleeper.

The 49ers took Clark in the 10th round and used his rookie season to sand off rough edges. He was awkward—"He'd attack the ball and make an easy catch look hard," says Wyche—but determined and tough. Indeed, Clark's harassment of defenders has become one of his greatest assets. "Suppose there's a play-action fake in our backfield, and on the previous running play this big guy had knocked the crap out of the defensive back," says Wyche. "That back gives a bigger cushion now, which gives Dwight more room to maneuver."

Walsh unleashed Clark two years ago, and since then he has caught passes in 34 straight games, a 49er record. Critics say Clark doesn't catch the ball upfield enough, but he has gained 2,096 yards the past two seasons and has a career average of 12.6 yards per catch. Mostly there's skepticism that a slowish white wide receiver belongs at all in a game dominated by black burners. Trust Walsh, the man all coaches, pro and college, imitate sooner or later. Clark, he says, is the kind of receiver "most teams don't have and don't realize they need."

Raised in Charlotte, N.C., the son of a bank vice-president and the grandson of a Baptist minister, Clark grew up listening to his grandmother, mother and aunt sing gospel harmony so sweet it made him cry. Clark sang in his own band in high school, doing "Jimi Hendrix and that kind of stuff," but gave it up to concentrate on athletics. A multi-sports star at Garinger High, Clark didn't amount to much at Clemson. He was prepared to pursue a career in coaching, and he'll be the first to tell you his life has had a charmed quality these last few years. "It isn't luck," he says, "but more like fate. I might have had the ability all along, but I didn't know it. Bill Walsh just showed me what to do. I did exactly what he said and it worked."

A cheerful young man with the gustatorial leanings of a Cub Scout, Clark recently went on Bay Area TV and showed viewers how to make banana and mayonnaise sandwiches (good old-fashioned spongy white bread, mayo and sliced bananas). Unfazed by success and the doors to exotic eating it can open, Clark wrote in his 49ers' publicity questionnaire that his favorite restaurant is "Wendy's, everywhere," which is true. At the Super Bowl Clark and Montana skipped a team meal in order to dine at a Wendy's in suburban Detroit, after which Clark described the meal in great detail in a diary that he was writing for the San Francisco Chronicle.

"I've eaten a hamburger a day for 10 years," Clark says. "That should tell you something about me."

OFF-SEASON

At a Mexican restaurant in San Diego, Winslow addresses the board members of the recently formed Kellen Winslow Flag Football League. "I saw some really cute socks today that maybe the kids could wear," he tells the board. "They have these little tassels on the sides." The nine members of the San Diego business community are silent. "Hmm. Well, how about a big patch of blood on everybody's jersey, some red paint to scare parents to death?" Smiles and silence. "Hey, the tassels are detachable," he says. "We are entertainers, you know."

The socks proposal is temporarily shelved, but Winslow, rolling with the punches, stays in control. He's the founder and commissioner of this city-wide league for 7- through 13-year-old boys and girls, and he's good at leading. Authoritative, witty, seldom at a loss for words, he understands that other people will help you if you treat them right. Like teachers, they must be played up to. During the off-season Winslow works as a business officer at the Sun Savings and Loan Association in San Diego, "bringing in money, showing businesses the advantages of using our bank." Everyone agrees that Winslow will be very wealthy someday. But his flag football is nonprofit and emphasizes low-pressure competition, teamwork and fun. "It's something I've been wanting to do for a long time," Winslow says. It's the kind of league he would have played in as a boy.

At an afternoon practice Winslow runs some 9-year-olds through a few simple plays. Periodically he pats one player or another on the head, his hand engulfing the skull as if it were a bean. His voice, so high and soft and unexpected, keeps the boys from being afraid. It's a voice that enabled Winslow to sing the falsetto parts on a rhythm-and-blues album he cut last year with some of his teammates. The group called itself The High Five and was disbanded last May, partly because members John Jefferson and Fred Dean had been traded. Those deals opened Winslow's eyes, made him see the very things he would like to protect his youthful players from. He discovered that the NFL isn't "a big barrel of fun. It's a business that exists to make money, and the players are stock to be bought, sold and traded, the same as on the New York Stock Exchange."

He also discovered that the Super Bowl is about the only thing worth striving for, because it stays with you. The Chargers' 1981 season ended a week after the Miami game, in Cincinnati, on the coldest day recorded there in this century. Counting wind chill, the temperature swing the Chargers experienced between Miami and Cincy was 138°, the greatest one-week disparity for a team in NFL history. Winslow scored San Diego's only touchdown while wearing two pairs of gloves. But the conditions were no consolation for a talented team that many observers feel should have been in the Super Bowl the last three years.

Winslow's development as a pro has also brought him the realization that a team can be no more or less than the sum of its parts. "Even if I catch 20 passes a game," he says, "I can't go to the Super Bowl by myself."

Here comes Miss Universe, in a slow jog, 5'8", 35-25-35, little shorts, ready to go 10 miles. "Do you want to run, Dwight?" she asks, and Clark, who is in his car, says no, as he always does because he hates to run. Miss Universe kisses him and disappears up the road, leaving in her absence the afterimage of legs.

Weatherly is a jock. She and Clark have been going together for four years, and in that time she has worked out at least as much as he has. She has even gone under the knife, having had a cartilage operation on each knee. The scars, it should be noted, affect her appearance about as much as two specks of dust on a Ferrari.

Weatherly and Clark make a stunning couple, tall, athletic, full of youth and teeth—perfect Californians, it seems. But they discovered each other back at Clemson when neither was particularly famous, just attractive. "Dwight was kind of a football star at Clemson, not because he was so good but because he was so handsome," says Weatherly. "They called him The Heartthrob Kid in the program. I'd seen him walking on campus with five girls on his arms, and I thought, 'How sickening!' " But before long they were dating steadily. They have been tight ever since—although for business reasons Weatherly now spends a lot of time in L.A.—and therein lies a lot of their current appeal on the fashion-show circuit.

"Shawn attracts people who aren't football fans, and Dwight is like a movie star," says Karen Firestone, the public relations manager for Macy's California, on a cool May day. Macy's hired the pair to model sportswear at a series of Bay Area fashion shows beginning this day. "But it's more than looks. I think everybody knows they're together. Everybody likes to see people in love."

Macy's also signed Montana for this outdoor gig in Union Square. He looks a little ill. This isn't his metier. Clark, too, is nervous at first but soon loosens up and begins to enjoy himself. Weatherly, of course, is the poised trouper, a smiling veteran of hundreds of these things, and she keeps the act together.

After the show the three sign posters of themselves for fans. Montana's picture is a standard football shot, but Clark's and Weatherly's are beefcake and cheesecake, respectively. Clark's shows him in gym shorts and ragged half T shirt, his body sprayed with oil and water, a girl-slaying grin on his face.

"I mean that has got to be the sexiest poster of a man I've ever seen," gushes Firestone. "Sexier than Burt Reynolds, Tom Selleck, anybody!"

Clark is characteristically naive about what is going on. "I don't know why my shirt is all ripped," he says. "The photographer did that."

It's pretty clear now what's happening. The Super Bowl is being sold here, as are sex and innocence and real love and fame and.... And the price is right. During the off-season Clark nearly doubled his close-to-$100,000 income from the 49ers by doing ads and appearances like the Macy's gig. And Weatherly got a big boost in her modeling career. It has been suggested to Clark that financially he and Weatherly couldn't break up now even if they wanted to, and Clark says with a laugh that it's probably true.

It seems as if nothing can stop the good rolls Clark has been getting lately. He envies Winslow's skills and grace and what Clark feels is "a truly great football name, right up there with Joe Montana." But he knows he has something Winslow would trade all those things for. Call it timing. In the Super Bowl the Bengals, behind 26-21, tried an onside kick with 16 seconds left in the game. If Cincinnati had recovered the ball, it could have won on a long pass. But as the kick skipped down the carpet it seemed to search out Dwight Clark and then, like an obedient dog, hopped toward Clark's chest. Clark grabbed the ball and fell down. A few seconds later the clock ran out, and the Super Bowl came to a fitting end in his lucky hands.

TWO PHOTOSTWO PHOTOSWinslow's playoff-record 13 catches and his crucial block of a Miami field goal left him drained at game's end.TWO PHOTOSClark eluded Cowboy Everson Walls to make the NFC title-clinching catch, then spiked the ball as 49er fans erupted.TWO PHOTOSWinslow gives Jefferson a nine-foot facial; Clark lays in a 10-foot basket.PHOTOClark and houseguest Renaldo Nehemiah go for video games in a big way.PHOTOBefore football and Katrina came along, chess was Winslow's main passion.PHOTOOff the field, Winslow hauls in business for an S & L.PHOTOYou can bag the notion that Clark is a gourmet.PHOTOThere are some passes that Winslow is able to catch between his teeth.PHOTOMontana, Weatherly and Clark were aces as Macy's models for tennis togs.

This is an article from
the Sept. 1, 1982 issue