|Freddie Solomon died Monday at the age of 59. (Getty)|
Former 49ers receiver Freddie Solomon, an important contributor to Bill Walsh’s original West Coast offense, died Monday afternoon at the age of 59 after a battle with colon and liver cancer.
"With all that he has done, with all that he has meant to this community, Freddie Solomon is irreplaceable,” Vin Hoover, Solomon's football teammate at the University of Tampa, told the Tampa Tribune. "He was my friend. He was everyone's friend.”
After his 11-year career with the Dolphins and 49ers from 1975-85, where he caught 371 passes for a 15.8 yards per catch average and 48 touchdowns, he stayed in Tampa and became a positive fixture in the community.
As the Tribune writes:
Solomon worked for two decades in community relations with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, working with youths while blending football fundamentals with life lessons. He rarely spoke about his accomplishments. For some, he dished out tough love. For others, he was a mentor. To all, he was simply "Coach Solomon."
Each winter for a dozen years, Solomon and former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo organized a Christmas celebration for foster children. The kids got wrapped toys, dolls or games. Their stunned caregivers, usually struggling to make ends meet, were screaming or sobbing in disbelief after opening gift envelopes filled with hundreds of dollars.
He was constantly stopped in his daily travels by people who remembered his glory days. Solomon obliged with a handshake, a hug, an autograph or a quick photo. Once, a woman asked Solomon to telephone her father, a big fan, as a birthday surprise. Instead, on his way home from work, Solomon dropped by the man's house to personally share some UT memories. They talked and laughed for hours.
"Freddie Solomon was a treasure for us in San Francisco,'' said former 49ers safety Ronnie Lott, a Pro Football Hall of Famer. "What a humanitarian he has been for the city of Tampa."
Interestingly enough, he was just as generous with his teammates. Jerry Rice and Dwight Clark are on record saying how helpful he was to them early in their careers.
"He helped me when he didn't really have to,'' Clark said. "But as I came to understand, that's how he has always been with everybody. He has led an amazing life.”
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