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Local Legend Helped Bring 49ers To Glory In Dynasty Years

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GRANITE BAY (CBS13) – We met John McVay in the driveway of his home overlooking Folsom Lake.

“I love it; it’s great. It’s a great place to live,” said McVay of living in the region.

At 81, McVay has more stories and more memories than most of us can ever hope of having. If you are a hardcore 49ers fan, then you know exactly who this man is, and was.

The run began in 1980 when McVay joined a coach named Bill Walsh, and an owner named Eddie DeBartalo.

McVay was vice president and director of football operations for the 49ers. Together, the three of them built one of the most successful dynasties in NFL history.

Known as “The Catch,” it is likely the most memorable play in 49ers history. In 1981, a young, up-and-coming 49ers team hosted the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship game. The 49ers were led by a promising young quarterback named Joe Montana. Wide receiver Dwight Clark would make a leaping catch at the end zone’s back to score the game-winning touchdown.

A cut out of Montana is just one piece of memorabilia in McVay’s room filled with pictures, each of which comes with a story. The 49ers drafted Montana in 1979, but before they did, Walsh went to McVay and asked him to do a little digging on Montana. McVay picked up the phone and called a friend who was a coach at Notre Dame, where Montana played his college ball.

“I said, ‘Montana is there, we’re thinking about taking him,’ said McVay. “He says, ‘take him.’ “

It was an endorsement from somebody he trusted.

“You really trusted,” said McVay.

He has been on a first-name basis with some of the biggest coaching legends in the history of football like Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes, who gave McVay a scholarship to play football at Miami University in Ohio.

McVay was born in West Virginia on Jan. 5, 1931, but was raised in Ohio. His father died in a car accident when he was 6 years old.

“Not having a father was difficult, but my grandfather, God bless him, did everything he could to, you know, fill in the spaces,” said McVay.

After graduating from college, McVay would coach a host of high school and college football teams.

In 1974, McVay got his first big professional football job when he became the head coach of the Memphis Southmen of the World Football League. His team dominated, and went 24 in 7 before the league folded a year later. Then, in 1976, halfway through the season, McVay was named head coach of the New York Giants.

“In New York, that’s a pressure cooker,” said McVay.

After the 1978 season, the Giants let him go. McVay’s head coaching career was over, but his next stop with the San Francisco 49ers was filled with success.

“Well, sometimes, you know, you say, ‘man, we got five Super Bowl rings.’ And you say, ‘how did we do that?’ ” said McVay.

In 1989, McVay was named NFL Executive of the Year. However, he is quick to give credit to others, like DeBartalo, Walsh, George Seifert, and the players. But McVay was very much a part of one of the greatest football dynasties in the history of the game.

These days, at his home along Folsom Lake, he is proud and thankful to be part of it.

“Life is good; life has been good to me,” said McVay.

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