April 29, 2014
One of the most rugged, gritty and determined football players of his era, one-time San José State end and San Francisco 49ers' defensive end Dan Colchico passed away on April 27, at age 76, in Concord, California, after a long illness.
Born May 27, 1937, in Berkeley, Calif., Daniel Mametta Colchico (Cole-kee-coe) came to San José State in 1957 as a transfer from East Contra Costa College (now Diablo Valley College). The graduate of Mt. Diablo High School earned varsity letters playing for the Spartans in 1957, 1958 and 1959. His teammates included quarterbacks Marv McKean and Super Bowl-winning coach Dick Vermeil, highly successful San José State and San Diego State football head coach Claude Gilbert, one-time University of Southern California track and field coach Ken Matsuda, former 1960 U.S. Olympics team sprinter Ray Norton, and offensive lineman Leon Donahue who would join him as a San Francisco 49er in the 1960's.
“I not only had the pleasure of playing college ball with Dan, I also got to room with him when Coach (Bob) Titchenal wanted to make sure Dan would be well rested the night before a game,” recalled Vermeil. “Dan was a real SPECIAL PIECE of WORK. He had so much energy and passion for the game, as well as real compassion for those he played the game with.
“It was important to slow him down a little to save his energy for game day! A man's man in every description. I'm proud to have had the opportunity to call Dan a teammate and a friend.”
Mr. Colchico was the team's leading pass receiver catching 23 passes for 277 yards in 1958, but he was most highly-regarded for his play as a defensive end.
"We played two years together. I was a little older than him and Dan was learning his way around (when he came to San José State)," stated Gilbert, the 1958 San José State football team captain. "Coach Titchenal said I had the assignment of mentoring him. We became great comrades and were neighbors living out by the airport.
"He was the toughest player I ever played with. Dan was a great leader on the team. He was a winner and a great playmaker."
"He was big (6-foot-4, 225 pounds according to the 1959 San José State football guide) and tough to bring down. Dan was one nobody wanted to block. I had to go 1-on-1 with Dan in practice. It was like trying to block a truck," said teammate Bob Keller, a fullback for the 1957 Spartans.
After the 1958 season, Mr. Colchico was the 78th overall college player selected in the National Football League draft by the San Francisco 49ers as the team's second seventh-round pick. A physical education major, he chose to stay at San José State for his final season of college football in 1959.
Mr. Colchico began his professional career in 1960 and immediately became a starting defensive end next to Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive tackle Leo Nomellini. He was a 49er through the 1967 season starting 64 games from 1960 through 1964. In 1962, he was named the winner of the Len Eshmont Award, the team's most prestigious annual honor. In his final season with San Francisco, while recovering from Achilles tendon injuries, Mr. Colchico was one of the team's assistant coaches. He resumed his playing career for two final seasons with the New Orleans Saints in 1968 and 1969.
"Dan was the ultimate warrior who kept playing after tearing both of his Achilles tendons twice and took more than 100 injections to stay on the field in a season," said retired Bay Area sportswriter Dave Newhouse, who interviewed Mr. Colchico often during his playing career and in recent years for book projects on professional football.
After his playing days, he was a car salesman, owned a retail beverage store, worked as a local sales representative in the beverage industry and traveled to Alaska for many summers to fish commercially.
He is a member of the San José State University Sports and Diablo Valley College Athletic Halls of Fame.
Mr. Colchico is survived by his wife of 59 years, Nancy; six children, four sons and two daughters; and 11 grandchildren.
A public viewing will take place, Thursday, May 8, at the Ouimet Brothers Concord Funeral Chapel (4125 Clayton Road) from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. A liturgy is scheduled the next day, Friday, May 9, at the St. Bonaventure Catholic Community Church in Concord (5562 Clayton Road).
Donations and contributions in Mr. Colchico's name can be made to the Bay Area Crisis Nursery, 1506 Mendocino Drive, Concord, CA 94521.