Former 49ers center Forrest Blue, a first-round pick in the 1968 NFL draft who was a four-time Pro Bowl selection, died Saturday at 65 after spending the past decade-and-a-half with dementia believed to be connected to his playing career.
Brittney Blue said her father's brain will be sent toBoston University where researchers are studying chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive degenerative disease linked to those who have sustained repeated head trauma. CTE is tied to memory loss, depression and dementia, and has been found in the brains of more than 20 former NFL players, including Bears safety Dave Duerson, 50, who committed suicide in February.
The brains of former 49ers running backs Joe Perry and John Henry Johnson also have been sent to Boston University after their deaths this year. Perry, 84, and Johnson, 81, endured severe memory loss in the years prior to their deaths.
Brittney Blue said her father began having dementia-related hallucinations in the mid-'90s, and they became more frequent and elaborate about seven years ago. Mr. Blue, who worked as a general contractor in Rocklin (Placer County) after his playing career, spent the past 22 months at an assisted-living facility in Carmichael (Sacramento County), where he often talked about "little people that lived in the walls," Brittney Blue said.
She said he also became extremely paranoid and believed people were using his contracting license to perform illegal work at the assisted-living facility.
The NFL's care for its retired players has been one of the issues discussed during the league's lockout. Ex-players have railed against inadequate pensions and medical benefits for years, and it appears their calls for reform were heard this week.
On Monday, NFL owners and the NFLPA reportedly agreed to add at least $900 million in benefits for retirees in the new collective-bargaining agreement. Of that total, $620 million is expected to be earmarked for the Legacy Fund, which benefits pre-1993 retirees.
Mr. Blue was covered under the 88 Plan, which provides up to $88,000 a year for ex-players dealing with dementia connected to their career. The plan was named in honor of Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey, 69, who died July 6 after being diagnosed with dementia in 2000.
Mr. Blue spent the first seven seasons of his 11-year career with the 49ers before playing with the Baltimore Colts from 1975 through '78. He was named to four straight Pro Bowls with the 49ers, 1971-74.
Mr. Blue, listed at 6-foot-6, 261 pounds by Pro Football Reference, thrived, in part, because of his size. Former 49ers tight end Ted Kwalick, who played six seasons (1969-74) with Blue, said his teammate was an imposing figure.
"Forrest was big back then, for that era," Kwalick said. "He was a big center and he did a great job. I think he was really dominant. You take a guy like Forrest Blue and John Matuszak, who I played with on the Raiders - and these guys were 270, 280 (pounds). But they didn't have bellies. That was unheard of back then."
Blue, who was married twice, is survived by two daughters, Brittney, 38, and Brandi, 40, and a grandchild, Micah, 16. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. July 30 in Sacramento. For more information, call (916) 812-1353 or e-mail