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Dwight Garner, key figure in Cal football history, dies at 58

BERKELEY — Former Cal football player Dwight Garner, who maintained forever that his knee did not touch the ground before he lateraled the ball during The Play in 1982, died on Friday at his home in Florida after a battle with prostate cancer.

Garner, who attended Skyline High School in Oakland, was 58.

Cal football alum Ahmad Anderson made a tearful announcement of the news during the unveiling of a statue in front of Memorial Stadium that commemorates The Play.

Garner was a freshman at Cal in 1982 when the Bears pulled off the five-lateral kickoff return that ended with Kevin Moen plowing through the Stanford band as he crossed the goal line.

Garner was the third player to touch the ball during the return and was mobbed by Stanford defenders and headed to the turf as he released his lateral to Richard Rodgers.

“A true brother, his knee was never down, and we will always stand here remembering him in this moment in this time for as long as we live and thereafter,” Anderson told a crowd gathered for the ceremony that revealed the statue of Moen.

In 1992, 10 years after The Play, Garner talked about receiving the lateral from Rodgers and thinking he would make a big play.

“I said, ‘Rich,’ and he threw it. I was a young freshman and I was thinking touchdown, which is why I was tackled by 20 people,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle in ’92.  “I had the ball almost between my legs; my forearm was the only thing free. If I had fallen with that ball, my career would have been a lot different.”

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Garner’s pitch of the ball back to Rodgers has been a point of contention for four decades with Stanford fans, convinced he was down and The Play should never have been completed.

Garner came to Cal after leading Skyline to the Oakland Athletic League crown, totaling 400 yards of offense with five touchdowns in the OAL championship game.

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