Fred Dean, Hall of Fame defensive end, dies at age of 68

Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Fred Dean died Wednesday at the age of 68, the Hall confirmed Thursday.

"The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Fred Dean," Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker said in a statement. "He exemplified many of the values learned from this great game -- commitment, integrity, courage -- over the course of his life. Our thoughts and prayers are with Fred's wife, Pam, and their entire family. We will forever keep his legacy alive to serve as inspiration for future generations. The Hall of Fame flag will be flown at half-staff in Fred's memory."

A two-time first-team All-Pro and two-time Super Bowl champion with the San Francisco 49ers, Dean played 141 games in the league for San Francisco and the San Diego Chargers.

Draft by the Chargers out of Louisiana Tech in 1975, Dean was an immediate starter for San Diego. The edge rusher spent the first seven years of his career with the Bolts, with whom he made two playoff appearances and made two Pro Bowls.

"Fred was one of the most feared defenders to ever play the game and yet, off the field, you would be hard pressed to find a kinder human being," Chargers owner Dean Spanos said in a statement. "He was a gentle giant with a smile matched only by his own sheer size. Everyone who knew Fred was better for it, and we are all terribly saddened by his loss. Our hearts and prayers are with his wife Pam and the entire Dean family."

Dean was traded to San Francisco during the 1981 season and helped lead the Niners to their first Super Bowl title.

"From the minute he joined the 49ers, Fred immediately helped to change the team's fortunes," the 49ers said in a statement. "In just his first game with the team, he put in an all-time performance against the Dallas Cowboys that not only helped defeat a nemesis but propelled the 49ers to our first Super Bowl Championship later that year.

"As the 49ers marched through the NFL, often having opponents on the ropes early in games, Fred was referred to by his teammates as 'The Closer' for his ability to deliver the knockout blow to opposing offenses. One of the most feared defenders in the game, he is remembered as a quiet, fun-loving, sincere, country gentleman. Fred's accolades were numerous, but his love for the game, his teammates and those close to him are what endeared him to so many."

Dean spent his final five seasons with San Francisco, his best year coming in 1983 when he recorded 17.5 sacks and was named to his final of four Pro Bowls. Dean won his second Super Bowl with San Francisco in 1984 and played his final NFL season in 1985.

The defensive end great was enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 2008.