R.C. Owens—a Santa Monica High School record-breaker, who as an NFL player introduced and made famous the phrase, "alley-oop"—has died.
He died June 17, reportedly of Kidney failure. He was 77.
A memorial service was held Friday at Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco.
Owens excelled in football and basketball and ran track at Santa Monica High notching several records and earning a spot in the school's hall of fame. His successes continued at the College of Idaho, where he led the nation in receptions his junior year. Injured his senior year, he made the cut on the cheerleading squad, according to obituary released by P.L. Fry and Son Funeral Home.
"I guess I made it because I could jump higher than anyone else," he was quoted in the New York Times.
He ditched pompoms for the football again as the 49ers' 160th pick in the 14th round of the 1956 draft. As a wide receiver, he made 27 receptions for 395 yards and 5 touchdowns, earning him the title of rookie of the year.
He played five seasons for the San Francisco team—where he had his best season in 1961— before signing on for two season with the Baltimore Colts and one for the New York Giants, the New York Times reported.
In his heyday, he was best known for his ability to out-leap defenders and earned the nickname "alley-oop" for making dunks on flying catches.
It was first witnessed in a NFL game in 1957 in a game against the Los Angeles Rams on Oct. 6, but his moves became legendary the next month when he "soared over two of the N.F.L.’s best defensive backs to catch a 41-yard touchdown pass with 11 seconds on the clock to beat the Detroit Lions," the Times reported.
It may have started as a blooper that worked, or as a twist on a practice drill, or perhaps even as a result of forethought. Stories have varied. There is no doubt it involved a long pass to Owens from quarterback Y. A. Tittle, something that had happened many times.
Owens rejoined the San Francisco 49ers to run the program's training camp and alumni relations program. He served as the club's main spokesman at civic and charitable functions throughout Northern California.
His family said he treasured his into the Santa Monica High School Hall of Fame, the College of Idaho Hall of Fame, the NAIA Hall of Fame, the Manteca Hall of Fame, the Stockton California Black Sports Hall of Fame, the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame and the Edward J. DeBartolo Sr. 49ers Hall of Fame.
"To know him is to love him. R. C. loved the San Francisco 49ers and San Francisco loved him. He will be missed by everyone," his obituary read.