SANTA CLARA -- John McVay, a front-office guru for 21 years with the 49ers, will be this year's lone inductee into the Edward J. DeBartolo Sr. 49ers Hall of Fame.
"It was Camelot. Those were very happy days," McVay said in a Monday visit to the 49ers facility. "We had a load of good players."
McVay's tenure with the 49ers began in 1979 as director of player personnel with then-coach Bill Walsh. McVay served as general manager from 1983-94 and returned to the franchise as the director of football operations from 1999-2003.
When McVay coached the New York Giants from 1976-78, he flew Walsh in from Stanford to teach offensive concepts to the Giants assistants. "So we became pretty good friends, and when (Walsh) got hired (as 49ers coach), he offered me an opportunity to come to California and I was on the next plane."
Having struggled with a roster-thin Giants, McVay's came to the 49ers with a personal mandate. "I'm going to make damn sure they have enough players. And we were scrambling. It was a lot of fun working with Bill and Eddie (DeBartolo Jr.). Because if we said, 'Eddie, we need a tight end,' he'd say, 'Then get one. Better yet, get two.' "
McVay, 82, will become the team's 24th inductee into their Hall of Fame on Oct. 12, and he will be recognized at halftime of the following day's game against the Arizona Cardinals at Candlestick Park.
"John played an integral role in the great success our franchise has achieved, helping to construct teams responsible for five Super Bowl victories," 49ers CEO Jed York, DeBartolo's nephew, said in a statement.
"His knowledge of the game and coaching experience allowed him to develop a great partnership with both Bill Walsh and George Seifert that was evident in the team's performance on the field. John's commitment and contributions to the 49ers helped to form the rich tradition we strive to carry on today."
McVay indeed endorsed the modern-day 49ers' path, praising the organization's front-office stability and coach Jim Harbaugh's "magic touch."
"I like what I see. You look at it from the top down with Jed and coach Harbaugh," McVay said. "(General manager Trent) Baalke has done an amazing job. They have managed to corral a magnificent group of players. Lots of them.
"Right now we have to sweat it out with receivers and injuries, but they'll work their way out of that."
McVay regaled a group of reporters with tales of how the 49ers built their 1980s dynasty. He recalled footballs getting stolen after open tryouts in Youngstown. He described standing on a fire escape at the 49ers' old facility in Redwood City during a tryout when Bill Walsh instantly picked out Bill Ring and told McVay to sign him. Then there was safety Dwight Hicks, who McVay tracked down in a Michigan health-food store to come and join a secondary that Hicks would dub, 'Dwight Hicks and The Hot Licks."
As for the selection of Joe Montana in the 1979 draft, McVay deflected all credit to Walsh, who passed away in 2007.
"Bill was scary in his ability to evaluate talent. Scary," McVay said. "Of course there was this kid drafted in the third round, Joe Montana. Over the years, there was absolutely no shortage of 49ers personnel, scouts, assistant coaches, equipment men trainers, there's no shortage of guys who take complete credit for drafting Joe Montana. Actually, it was Bill Walsh who drafted him."
Walsh is the only coach in the 49ers' Hall of Fame, and McVay will become their first front-office executive.
"There aren't many desk jockeys getting in the Hall of Fame. That's for good players," said McVay, who lives in Granite Bay. "I'm really honored, and as you can imagine, overwhelmed. Having gone to many of these dinners and looked up at guys who are Hall of Fame players, it's humbling."