Getty Images

Dwight Garner, a former California Golden Bears running back and one of the central characters in "The Play" against Stanford in 1982, died Friday after a battle with prostate cancer. He was 58.

Garner's death came two days before the 40th anniversary of "The Play," a game-winning kickoff return touchdown by Cal that remains one of the single greatest and most bizarre finishes in the history of college football. News of Garner's death was first shared by teammate Ahmad Anderson during the unveiling of a statue commemorating "The Play."

In that 1982 game, Cal was left with one shot at a game-winning kickoff return after Stanford had kicked a field goal to go up 20-19 with four seconds remaining. Kevin Moen fielded a squib kick by Stanford at Cal's 45-yard line, throwing a lateral to Richard Rodgers before Rodgers lateraled the ball to Garner.

Garner began to run forward, but he was quickly surrounded and tackled by Stanford's coverage unit. Thinking that Garner's knee was down and the game was over, Stanford players and the school's band began to run onto the field in celebration, but Garner was able to throw another lateral back to Rodgers. Rodgers then lateraled to Mariet Ford, who finally lateraled to Moen for the winning touchdown.

The lasting contention over "The Play" was the matter of whether Garner's knee was down, which he would go on to chalk up to perspective colored by the rivalry between the two schools.

"People still question me, and honestly, if you're from Stanford, I was down, and if you're from Cal, I wasn't," Garner told the San Francisco Chronicle in 1992.

Garner would go on to play four seasons at Cal, serving as the team's top kick and punt returner as a sophomore and leading receiver as a junior. He would finish his Golden Bears career with 258 carries for 1,048 and eight touchdowns while also catching 120 passes for 1,027 yards and a touchdown.

Garner would go on to play one season in the NFL in 1986, appearing in two regular-season games as an undrafted free agent with Washington and returning seven kickoffs for 142 yards with a long run of 26. Garner would appear in all three of Washington's playoff games that year, returning five kicks for 98 yards including a career-long 36-yard return before his team's playoff run ended with a loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

According to Sports Illustrated, Garner had been living in Florida and working as a risk manager at the time of his death.