The San Francisco 49ers lost one of the first superstars of their franchise’s storied history today as Art Michalik passed away. He was 91 years old.
“The #49ers extend their condolences to the family and friends of Art Michalik who has passed,” the team said in a statement. “He spent two years with SF (1953-54) and earned All-Pro & Pro Bowl honors in ’53.”
Michalik was a star football player and wrestler at St. Ambrose University. He played linebacker and guard, and played well enough to earn numerous college accolades.
His success at the college level led to the 49ers taking him No. 198 overall in the 1951 NFL Draft. But his professional football career was temporarily put on hold when the US Marine Corps drafted him shortly after graduating.
Michalik was discharged in 1953 and promptly signed with the 49ers, where he starred immediately. He made Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors as a rookie.
The #49ers extend their condolences to the family and friends of Art Michalik who has passed.
He spent two years with SF (1953-54) and earned All-Pro & Pro Bowl honors in ’53. pic.twitter.com/EA96Kt0VYm
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) February 24, 2021
Art Michalik played just two games in 1954 due to severe injuries that almost forced him to retire. But Michalik decided to keep playing, leading the 49ers to trade him to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Michalik played two full seasons with the Steelers before retiring after the 1956 season.
After retiring, Michalik went into professional wrestling, and actually won championship gold alongside tag team partner Leo Nomellini in the National Wrestling Alliance.
Later in his life, Michalik would work as a high school teacher and sports coach.
Our hearts go out to Mr. Michalik’s family and loved ones. Rest in peace.