Joe Montana stays cool under pressure. It’s among the characteristics that made him one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
But the former 49ers star conceded Sunday that he was nervous about calling an audible after the City of San Francisco named a street after him. While standing onstage inside City Hall and holding a street sign that read “Joe Montana Drive,” he respectfully asked that the name be changed to “Montana-Clark Drive,” to honor his ailing friend and onetime teammate Dwight Clark.
It was Clark who made “The Catch,” the winning, six-yard touchdown reception in the 1981 NFC championship game against Dallas, a leaping grab in the back of the end zone that helped launch the 49ers dynasty.
Jennifer Montana, Joe’s wife, came up with the idea of incorporating the street name to honor both players.
“I just mentioned that the play that ignited this whole beautiful tradition of the 49ers should be shared with [Clark] forever on that street,” she said. “But Joe picked it up from there. He was nervous because he didn’t know if officially he was overstepping bounds, and I said, `You’re doing something from your heart. You just put that aside.’”
Sure enough, Joe Montana got the word after the ceremony that the street name would be adjusted accordingly. The street will run through the massive FivePoint real estate development which will include more than 7,000 homes, along with shops, restaurants, a hotel and more than 100 acres of parks and green space.
The quarterback who went 4-0 in Super Bowls joked that the speed limit should be lower on Montana-Clark Drive “because we know Dwight wasn’t very fast.”
Montana was among several San Francisco sports icons honored at the private street-naming ceremony. On the site where Candlestick Park once stood, there will be Jerry Rice Road, Bill Walsh Street, and Ronnie Lott Lane. The former owner of the team will have an Edward J. DeBartolo Jr. Way, and the former team president will have Carmen Policy Avenue.
A trio of legendary San Francisco Giants — Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda and Barry Bonds — had lanes named after them, and a park will bear the name of Hall of Famer Willie McCovey.
Clark, who attended the ceremony, has stayed out of the public eye since announcing last month he has been diagnosed with ALS. He spoke briefly at the unveiling of a smaller rendition of a mural that will be incorporated into the neighborhood, depicting him making the most famous catch in franchise history. He couldn’t help but needle Montana.
“I tell the story a lot about ‘The Catch,’ and what a perfect pass it was,” he said. “In practice, Joe could never get it right. Kept throwing it over my head or throwing it too low. In the game, with the Super Bowl on the line, two people in front of him, he’s on his back foot and he puts it in the exact spot that it has to be.
“When I tell that story, Joe says, `Well, then, maybe it should be called The Throw.’”
Then, with a playful plea, Clark said, “Give me my one play.”