San Francisco 49ers: 15 most beloved fan favorites in franchise history

Joe Montana, Dwight Clark, San Francisco 49ers. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Joe Montana, Dwight Clark, San Francisco 49ers. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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Joe Montana, Roger Craig, Dwight Clark, San Francisco 49ers
Joe Montana, Roger Craig, Dwight Clark, San Francisco 49ers. (Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images) /

Niner Noise digs through the archives, ranking the 49ers’ 15 most beloved fan favorites in the history of the franchise. Where does your favorite player rank?

It’s not hard to come up with lists chronicling the San Francisco 49ers‘ all-time greats. The Niners have had more than their fair share of those players over the years, record holders, Hall of Famers and icons who define the game itself.

These are the players fans remember for years after each decided to call it a career. In most cases, these are the players fans came to love and adore during their careers donning the red and gold.

For the most part, at least.

Yet there are inevitably some differences between all-time greats and the most beloved 49ers of all time. The rankings surely will be a bit different, and the global expansion of media during the past few decades has made it easier for fans to fall in love with players than the early years of the franchise dating back to its inception in 1946.

These players are well-known because of the adoration from the Niners Faithful. But before we can get into the top 15, let’s take a look at some players who barely missed the cut.

49ers Honorable Mentions

Tight End George Kittle

Right now, Pro Bowl tight end George Kittle could arguably be looked at as the No. 1 beloved player on the Niners. He is, after all, pretty entertaining in addition to his record-setting on-field efforts from 2018 and electric personality.

Related Story. Why George Kittle's popularity rise is great news for the 49ers. light

Given Kittle has been within the pro ranks for only a few years now, let’s wait a while to see if he can climb into the top 15 down the road.


Wide Receiver Terrell Owens

Let’s face it. You either love Pro Football Hall of Famer Terrell Owens or you can’t stand him. You can’t, however, deny how big a factor he was on the field.

T.O. certainly created waves in San Francisco. And many fans have moved past some of the antics and controversy he caused during his Niners tenure, embracing him as the star he was for the 49ers for so many years.

Wide Receiver R.C. Owens

If the late wide receiver R.C. Owens was alive today and playing, he would have been a superstar. Nicknamed “Alley-Oop” by his teammates, the 49ers’ 1956 NFL Draft choice helped perfect the “go up and get it” catches in the end zone so worthy of posters and highlight reels today.

For those lucky enough to have watched Owens, they’ll never forget it.

Running Back Garrison Hearst

Had running back Garrison Hearst enjoyed a longer tenure with the Niners, he’d easily be within the top 15. And remember, he missed two of his prime years suffering from avascular necrosis, yet returned with a Pro Bowl-level 1,206 rushing yardage season in 2001.

Fans don’t forget things like that.

Running Back Joe Perry

Like Owens, there aren’t too many of us around who saw running back Joe Perry emerge as one of the NFL’s most dominant rushers of his era.

Yet Perry’s name became more of a household one when another player on this list (we’ll get to him shortly) started to inch closer to his franchise rushing record.

During his heyday, Perry was arguably the most electrifying running back in the 1950s. His return to San Francisco during his twilight season in 1963 was one most 49ers fans probably wish they had witnessed.