Before Vernon Davis and George Kittle donned the jersey number 85 for the 49ers, Monty Stickles wore that same number with pride and set the standard for the future great tight ends of the San Francisco 49ers. From 1960 to 1967, Stickles caught many passes from John Brodie as the 49ers searched for that elusive playoff spot that never came in the decade. Though he is largely forgotten, Monty Stickles proved to be one of the pioneers of the position. This is his story.
Monty Anthony Stickles was born on August 16, 1938 in Kingston, New York, moving to Poughkeepsie when he was young. After starring at Poughkeepsie High School, Stickles accepted a scholarship to the Notre Dame. In 1957, his first year as a starter, Notre Dame upset the Oklahoma Sooners 7-0, ending their 47 game winning streak. Monty Stickles ended his sophomore year with 11 receptions for 183 yards and three touchdowns.
As a junior in 1958, Stickles recorded 20 catches for 328 yards and seven touchdowns and was named an All-American. As a senior, he caught 11 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns and was voted a consensus All-American. After graduation, Monty Stickles was drafted in the first round of the AFL Draft by the Los Angeles Chargers and in the first round of the NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. He chose the established league over a team which had yet to play a game and went to San Francisco.
When Monty Stickles arrived in San Francisco, the 49ers were a year away from trading incumbent quarterback Y.A. Tittle to the New York Giants. Tittle was often hurt in 1960 and appeared in nine games, starting just four. As a result, Stickles was able to get a better early connection with Tittle’s backup, John Brodie. Starting six games, Stickles caught 22 passes for 252 yards as a rookie. At the conclusion of the season, Tittle was traded to the Giants and a new era began in San Francisco.
In 1961, with Brodie firmly entrenched as a starter and Stickles starting every game, Monty Stickles improved his numbers from the year before, catching 43 passes for 794 yards and five touchdowns while the 49ers finished 7-6-1. Though he started every game in 1962, Stickles did not do as well, catching 22 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns. Things got even worse the following year with him missing three games and catching career lows in receptions (11) and yards (152).
But Monty Stickles was not a quitter and improved drastically in 1964. He caught 40 passes for 685 yards and three touchdowns. It would be his last good year as a pro. In the following two years he would catch 62 passes for 658 yards and three touchdowns. After an injury-riddled 1967 campaign, Monty Stickles was taken in the Expansion Draft by the New Orleans Saints. He retired after the 1968 season, having caught 15 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns. But he was not quite done with the game of football.
Broadcasting and Later Life
After retiring from the NFL, Monty Stickles began a decade’s long career in radio, broadcasting University of San Francisco basketball games from 1968 to 1973 for KEST Radio. After leaving KEST in 1973, he moved over to KGO Radio where he did color commentary for Cal football and Oakland Raider games, pairing his talents with famed announcer Bill King.
In addition to his radio duties, Stickles also served as a weekend sportscaster for KGO-TV in San Francisco. Due to his profile as a color commentator, Monty Stickles landed small roles in two movies: Number One (1969) and Freebie and the Bean (1974). He spent the rest of his life in San Francisco, investing in real estate and owning a Labatt’s distributorship. Monty Stickles passed away from heart failure on September 2, 2006 at the age of 68.