An Original ’49er

Eddie Forrest ’39, who died in 2001 a month shy of his 80th birthday, was one of the original members of the San Francisco ’49ers. Forrest graduated from Presidio Middle School before coming to SI, where he excelled in basketball and football. At 5-feet, 11-inches and 215 pounds, he wasn’t the biggest linebacker SI had ever seen, but he was effective. He made the All-City team during his last three years with the Wildcats, playing for George Malley, and was chosen to play in the high school version of the East-West game, which pitted the best East Bay high school athletes against their San Francisco and Peninsula counterparts. He went on to SCU where he played offensive guard and linebacker for Coach Buck Shaw. He later enlisted during World War II and served as a paratrooper in Europe. In 1944, the Green Bay Packers drafted him, but because he was in the service, the draft wasn’t binding. “I was away from home so much, I didn’t want to go to Wisconsin to play,” he said in a 1992 Genesis interview. Then Buck Shaw, who served as the first ’49ers’ coach, signed him while he was still in Germany. Two years later, when the Niners played their first game, Forrest was in uniform, playing center, guard and linebacker for two seasons in the All-America Football Conference. He then returned to SCU where he coached with Len Casanova until 1951 following the Broncos’ victory over Kentucky in the Orange Bowl.

“I can remember when he used to practice with his team at the Polo Fields,” said classmate Bob Lagomarsino. “The ’49ers were 33 strong in those days. Eddie was a real rugged guy, but he weighed less than 220 pounds. In those days, you didn’t have to be a behemoth to play football.”

A member of the San Francisco Prep Hall of Fame and SCU’s Athletic Hall of Fame, Forrest always spoke fondly of his days as a ’49er. “Most of us were from the Bay Area, and we all knew each other before the ’49ers,” he said in a 1996 interview in the San Francisco Chronicle. “So we were a very, very close team. Since there were no other major-league pro teams here then, we were sort of quasi- or semi-celebrities. People knew us. Anybody in the Bay Area interested in sports knew about the ’49ers in those days. From the beginning, we got good crowds. We all lived in Parkmerced. The wives knew each other and socialized together. It was a very happy existence.”

Later, Forrest was active as a volunteer with the NFL Alumni Association, and he built a successful career as a savings and loan executive, retiring in the 1990s to spend time with his family.

“He couldn’t make too many of our annual reunions because of his bad knees,” said Lagomarsino. “But he did come to the 40-yearand 50-year reunions. He led the class in singing the fight song. He was one of the most popular guys in the class.”

SI had several other athletes play pro football, including Dan Fouts ’69, who made the NFL Hall of Fame as quarterback for the San Diego Chargers. Look for more on him in Chapter 10.