UPDATED (9:45 p.m., Monday): Ted Connolly, a former Napa resident who played right guard for the San Francisco 49ers from 1954 to 1962, died at his home in Gardnerville, Nev., on Feb. 24 from acute myelocytic leukemia. He was 82.
Connolly, who earned All-Pro honors, blocked for the team’s “Million Dollar Backfield” of John Henry Johnson (fullback), Joe Perry (fullback), Hugh McElhenny (halfback) and Y.A. Tittle (quarterback).
Connolly was a ninth-round pick (107th overall) out of Tulsa by the 49ers in 1954. He made the 1962 National Football League All-Star team by The Sporting News, joining players such as Jim Brown (Cleveland), Mike Ditka (Chicago), Forest Gregg (Green Bay), Jim Ringo (Green Bay), Boyd Dowler (Green Bay), Dick Bass (Los Angeles), Jim Taylor (Green Bay), Tittle (New York), Roosevelt Grier (New York), Gino Marchetti (Baltimore), Alex Karras (Detroit), Dick Lane (Detroit), and Willie Wood (Green Bay) on the team.
“Joe Perry called me over one time and said, ‘If you don’t get out of the way, I’m going to run right over you,’ ” Connolly said in an interview with the Napa Valley Register in 2010.
Connolly played 92 games in his nine-year NFL career. He was traded and played his final year in the NFL for Cleveland in 1963. With the Browns, he blocked for the legendary running back, Jim Brown.
“As successful as my dad was, he was always very unassuming,” said Connolly’s son, Matt Connolly of Napa. “He never talked a whole lot about his accomplishments.
“We’re very proud of him. He was a great dad, a good friend.”
Ted Connolly had success as an athlete in high school and college.
He was inducted into the Piedmont High School Sports Hall of Fame for his accomplishments in football, track and field, baseball and basketball.
He was an All-Catholic All-American tackle in 1951 at Santa Clara.
When Santa Clara dropped football, he transferred to Tulsa University in Oklahoma, and graduated in 1953.
After retiring from football, Connolly went to work for Grubb & Ellis real estate as vice president of development.
In 1966, he started Connolly Development, Inc., which developed over 40 shopping centers in California and Nevada. His first shopping center, Bonanza Square in Las Vegas, Nev., is still owned and operated by his family.
“He worked hard and he had a good vision for what he wanted to accomplish,” said Matt Connolly, who is with Connolly Properties in Napa.
Matt said his father, who was diagnosed in mid-December with leukemia, worked very hard to get to the NFL and viewed it as an honor to play for the 49ers. He was active in 49er alumni functions.
“He enjoyed playing the game, but he had the responsibility of raising a family — he knew the business side of it, too,” said Matt Connolly, 57.
Ted Connolly bought a ranch off Partrick Road in 1974 in Napa and developed Sky Hill Farms, producing gourmet cheeses and yogurts from Nubian goats, and organic produce for local restaurants. He made his home here for over 20 years.
“He always talked about wanting to get closer to the natural environment,” said Matt Connolly.
Ted Connolly was a first lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve at Hamilton Air Force Base.
He was coach of the Air Force football team, ending his active service with a win over Army in the Penrose Bowl in 1956.
Ted Connolly is survived by his children Mark, Cary Byers (Jerry), Matthew (Sally), Chad and Amy Katsanos; his grandchildren Wesley, Cole, Bryce, Austin and Dimitri; their mother Mary Connolly, good friend Marjorie McGee, his siblings Francis Alexander and husband Ernie (deceased), Larry and wife Barbara, Norman (deceased) and his wife Deletta, and many nieces and nephews. He is also preceded in death by his sister Betty Spivey and husband Bill.
Ted Connolly’s grandchildren, Austin and Wes Connolly, played football for Justin-Siena.
Austin was a two-way starter and the 2012 All-Napa County Player of the Year.
A memorial celebration date will be determined in the near future.
Condolences can be sent to Legacy.com and charitable donations may be made to the Piedmont High School Boosters for the student sports programs: