Fred Dean
No. 71, 74
Position:Defensive end
Personal information
Born:(1952-02-24)February 24, 1952
Arcadia, Louisiana, U.S.
Died:October 14, 2020(2020-10-14) (aged 68)
Jackson, Mississippi, U.S.
Height:6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Weight:230 lb (104 kg)
Career information
High school:Ruston (Ruston, Louisiana)
College:Louisiana Tech (1971–1974)
NFL draft:1975 / Round: 2 / Pick: 33
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Fumble recoveries:13
Interception yards:22
Defensive touchdowns:2
Player stats at PFR

Frederick Rudolph Dean (February 24, 1952 – October 14, 2020) was an American professional football player who was a defensive end in the National Football League (NFL). A two-time first-team All-Pro and a four-time Pro Bowler, he won two Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008.

Dean played college football for the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. He was selected in the second round of the 1975 NFL draft by the San Diego Chargers. He was traded to San Francisco in 1981 due to a contract dispute. He is a member of both the Chargers Hall of Fame and 49ers Hall of Fame.

Early life

Dean was born in Arcadia,[1] the seat of Bienville Parish in north Louisiana. He grew up 20 miles (32 km) east in Ruston, where he attended the all-Black, segregated Lincoln High School. After integration, he moved as a junior to Ruston High, where he graduated.[1][2]

College career

Dean was a standout at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, having spurned an opportunity to play for legendary coach Eddie Robinson at nearby Grambling State University, which at the time was sending African American players to the NFL on a yearly basis.[3] Playing mostly as an end,[4] Dean excelled as a defensive lineman for the Bulldogs and was a four-time all-conference selection and two-time conference defensive player of the year in the Southland Conference.[5][6] He was an All-American as a senior in 1974.[6]

Professional career

San Diego Chargers

Dean was selected by the San Diego Chargers in the second round of the 1975 NFL draft with the 33rd overall pick. Chargers coach Tommy Prothro initially projected him as a linebacker but eventually relented to Dean's wish to remain a lineman.[4] As a rookie, he had seven sacks and registered his career-high of 93 tackles.[7] He recorded 15+12 sacks in 1978.[4] In 1979, the Chargers won the AFC West division while leading the AFC in fewest points allowed (246).[8] Dean had nine sacks in 13 games and was named to the All-AFC team.[9][10]

The Chargers again won the AFC West in 1980, with Dean teaming with fellow 1975 Charger draftees Gary "Big Hands" Johnson and Louie Kelcher as the Chargers led the NFL in sacks (60).[11][12] Dean had missed the first two games of the season after not reporting, but still finished the season with 10+12 sacks.[13] He and Johnson were named first-team All-Pro, with Kelcher being named second-team All-Pro. The trio along with Leroy Jones formed a defensive front that was nicknamed the Bruise Brothers.[11][12]

San Francisco 49ers

Dean's uniform with the San Francisco 49ers at the Pro Football Hall of Fame

In 1981, Dean was traded to the San Francisco 49ers due to a contract dispute with Chargers' ownership.[14] He complained that he was the lowest-paid sixth-year defensive lineman in 1980 and that his salary was below the average of all defensive linemen.[15][16] Dean contended that he was making the same amount of money as his brother-in-law who was a truck driver.[17] Originally set to make $75,000 that season,[18] the 49ers renegotiated his contract to reportedly near $150,000 a year.[19] The Chargers' defense would not be the same afterwards, and Don "Air" Coryell's Chargers teams are now most remembered for its high-scoring, pass-oriented offense that did not have enough defense to make it to a Super Bowl. In 2013, U-T San Diego called the Chargers trading Dean "perhaps the biggest blunder in franchise history".[20] "I can't say how much it affected us, because we did make it to the AFC championship game," said Johnson of the Chargers without Dean. "But I could say if we had more pass rush from the corner, it might've been different".[4]

With San Francisco, Dean was used as a pass-rush specialist, playing only when the 49ers switched from a 3–4 defense to a 4–3 or a 4–2 nickel.[18][21] He joined the team mid-season for Game 6 against the Dallas Cowboys.[22] After only a couple of practices, he played and was still able to record two sacks and apply pressure and repeatedly hurry Danny White in a 45–14 win by the 49ers. His performance was noted by author Tom Danyluk as "the greatest set of downs I have ever seen unleashed by a pass rusher".[23] In what had been a game of possum, Bill Walsh, the 49er head coach, said to John Madden, who covered the game, "Fred (Dean) just got here... If he plays, he won't play much".[24] But he played the whole game.[25]

Two weeks later at home against the Los Angeles Rams, the 49ers won 20–17 for their first-ever win against the Rams at home in Candlestick Park, as Dean sacked Pat Haden 4+12 times.[18] Dean was named the UPI NFC Defensive Player of the Year with 12 sacks while playing in 11 games for the 49ers.[26] The 49ers went on to win Super Bowl XVI that year, and Steve Sabol (NFL Films) is quoted in 2006 as saying that Dean's acquisition was the last meaningful in-season trade, in that it affected the destination of the Lombardi Trophy.[9] San Francisco, which was 3–2 when Dean arrived, won 13 of their final 14 games, including the playoffs.[27]

In 1983, Dean recorded a career-high 17+12 sacks to lead the NFC and recorded a then-NFL record of six in one game, setting that mark during the 49ers’ 27–0 shutout of the New Orleans Saints on November 13, 1983.[28]

Dean was also a key player on the 1984 squad than won Super Bowl XIX. He was reunited with his former Charger teammates Johnson, Kelcher and Billy Shields, who were acquired by the 49ers.[14]


Dean ended his NFL career with 93 unofficial sacks, according to the Professional Football Researchers Association.[29] Dean was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008,[28] when his bust, sculpted by Scott Myers, was unveiled.[30][31][32] He was also named to both the Chargers' 40th and 50th anniversary teams and inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame.[33][34][35]

Dean was inducted into the Louisiana Tech University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1990 and the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 1995.[5][36] In 2009, Dean was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.[6]

Later years

After his football career, Dean was a minister in his hometown, Ruston.[37]

Dean died from COVID-19 while being airlifted from a hospital in West Monroe, Louisiana, to Jackson, Mississippi, on October 14, 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. He was 68.[21][38]

Dean is one of at least 345 NFL players to be diagnosed after death with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is caused by repeated hits to the head.[39][40]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Fred Dean Enshrinement speech". August 2, 2008. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
  2. ^ "The life and career of NFL Hall of Famer, Louisiana Tech alum Fred Dean ahead of 49ers' date in Super Bowl LIV". KLFY. KYVE. January 23, 2020. Retrieved January 29, 2023.
  3. ^ "Dean Readies for the Hall". July 26, 2008. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d Thomas, Jim (July 30, 2008). "Fred Dean: Situational pass-rusher made most of his opportunities". The State Journal-Register. Archived from the original on September 19, 2016.
  5. ^ a b "La. Tech to retire Fred Dean's number". Shreveport Times. July 11, 2017. Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c "2009 Divisional College Football Hall of Fame Class Announced". National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame. May 12, 2009. Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  7. ^ "Hall of Fame Class of 2007". Associated Press. February 3, 2007. Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  8. ^ Center, Bill (July 1, 2010). "Don Coryell, ex-Chargers, Aztecs coach, dies at 85". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  9. ^ a b Thomas, Jim (July 30, 2008). "Fred Dean: Trade to 49ers proves beneficial for player and team". The Patriot Ledger. Retrieved July 31, 2017. It's been called the trade of all in-season football trades by NFL Films' Steve Sabol.
  10. ^ "Fred Dean's Career Highlights". Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  11. ^ a b "Grambling State University Loses Two Football Legends". Fox Sports Interactive Media, LLC. August 11, 2010. Archived from the original on August 19, 2010.
  12. ^ a b "No. 16: Chargers' best draft class". March 28, 2009. Retrieved May 27, 2011. The 2001 class was good, but the 1975 class ranks the best. San Diego had four of the first 33 picks in the draft, and the Chargers selected three defensive linemen that would form the nucleus of "The Bruise Brothers" and once formed three-fourths of the AFC Pro Bowl defensive line.(subscription required)
  13. ^ Smith, Rick (1981). 1981 San Diego Chargers Facts Book. San Diego Chargers. p. 28.
  14. ^ a b "Say It Ain't So". January 28, 2001. Archived from the original on April 3, 2013.
  15. ^ "Dean Goes to Chargers". The New York Times. October 3, 1981. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  16. ^ "Chargers six-year defensive end Fred Dean, complaining his salary..." United Press International. September 30, 1981. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  17. ^ Wilson, Bernie (July 31, 2008). "Charger-turned-Niner Fred Dean answers Hall's call". USA Today. Retrieved November 3, 2008.
  18. ^ a b c Zimmerman, Paul (November 2, 1981). "The 49ers Are Really Panning Out". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  19. ^ Pomerantz, Gary (November 10, 1981). "Quarterbacks Facing 49ers Make the Dean's List". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  20. ^ Krasovic, Tom (June 5, 2013). "Chargers had a Fearsome Foursome, too". U-T San Diego. Archived from the original on August 1, 2017.
  21. ^ a b Traub, Alex (October 17, 2020). "Fred Dean, Sack Specialist Who Ignited 49ers Dynasty, Dies at 68". New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 17, 2020.
  22. ^ Killion, Ann (October 11, 2020). "Keep 49ers great Fred Dean in your thoughts as he battles coronavirus". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  23. ^ Danyluk, Tom; Zimmerman, Paul (January 1, 2005). The Super '70s. Mad Uke Publishing. ISBN 9780977038305.
  24. ^ Madden, John; Anderson, Dave (October 1, 1987). One knee equals two feet: (and everything else you need to know about football). Jove Books. ISBN 9780515091939.
  25. ^ Conetzkey, Chris (August 1, 2008). "Defensive end Fred Dean: In the words of ..." ESPN. Retrieved July 31, 2017. 10 or 12 plays turned into a whole game against the Dallas Cowboys
  26. ^ Gay, Nancy (February 3, 2008). "49ers' Dean is headed to Hall of Fame". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  27. ^ Branch, Eric (October 15, 2020). "49ers' Hall of Fame pass rusher Fred Dean dies at 68 after coronavirus infection". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved October 16, 2020. In 1981, the 49ers, coming off a 6-10 season, acquired Dean in a trade from San Diego when they were 3-2. They proceeded to win 13 of their last 14 games, including the Super Bowl.
  28. ^ a b "Fred Dean | Pro Football Hall of Fame Official Site". Retrieved April 12, 2016.
  29. ^ Magee, Jerry (February 2, 2008). "Dean awaits call from Canton". The San Diego Union-Tribune. p. D-3. During a career made up of six seasons in San Diego and five in San Francisco, he had 93 sacks, by the count of John Turney of the Pro Football Researchers Association.
  30. ^ Price, Taylor (December 2, 2008). "Fred Dean: Life After the Hall of Fame". Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  31. ^ Gosset, Brian (July 27, 2015). "Granbury sculptor says making Hall of Fame bust of Haley 'special'". Star-Telegram. Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  32. ^ "Fred Dean with his wife Pam, and his bust". August 3, 2008. Archived from the original (Photo) on August 1, 2017. Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  33. ^ "Chargers 50th anniversary team". The Press-Enterprise. Archived from the original on December 18, 2009.
  34. ^ "Chargers Honor Lincoln". Lewiston Tribune. October 24, 2000. Archived from the original on February 9, 2013. Retrieved March 8, 2013.
  35. ^ 2010 San Diego Chargers Media Guide (PDF). San Diego Chargers. 2010. p. 231. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 22, 2010.
  36. ^ "Fred Dean". Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  37. ^ Krasovic, Tom (October 15, 2020). "Fred Dean led 49ers' Super Bowl run after Chargers' Klein wouldn't pay star wages". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved October 16, 2020.
  38. ^ Crabtree, Curtis. "Reports: Hall of Fame defensive end Fred Dean dies of COVID-19 at 68". NBC Sports. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
  39. ^ "The driving force behind Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)". Concussion Legacy Foundation. Archived from the original on July 2, 2023. Retrieved July 2, 2023.
  40. ^ Ken Belson and Benjamin Mueller (June 20, 2023). "Collective Force of Head Hits, Not Just the Number of Them, Increases Odds of C.T.E. The largest study of chronic traumatic encephalopathy to date found that the cumulative force of head hits absorbed by players in their careers is the best predictor of future brain disease". The New York Times. Retrieved July 2, 2023.