Sports

Former college football broadcasting icon Keith Jackson passes away at 89

Former college football broadcasting icon Keith Jackson passes away at 89

Today's announce booths always feel as though the announce team is pulling for a narrative like an upset or a big name quarterback while Jackson just loved the game itself. He graduated in 1954.

After graduation, he landed with KOMO in Seattle and it was there that he became the first to broadcast a sports event from the Soviet Union - a University of Washington crew race.

Broyles' first ABC broadcast wasn't with Jackson.

But the phrase most associated with Jackson is one even he seemed a bit baffled by. I don't know if he was in any kind of condition to watch the epic national championship game between Georgia and Alabama, decided four days before his death, but I hope so. He covered the sport from 1952-2006. His calls were as much a part of the entertainment as the game itself, and he'll be remembered forever for his signature call: "Whoah, Nellie!" Jackson was also a man of the people. Jackson had a wide-spanning appeal across the college football landscape because he had a deep understanding and appreciation of the sport from multiple angles.

Jackson was flawless for the casual fan and while he was the first voice of ABC Monday Night Football with Don Meredith and Howard Cosell it was not his style.

Because Jackson let college football seep into him, it seeped into the rest of us, too.

His ABC career began in 1966 and included numerous assignments in baseball, college and professional football, college basketball and other sports, the university said. When swimmer Mark Spitz made Summer Olympics history by winning seven gold medals at Munich, in 1972, Jackson was there. And now Keith Jackson.

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Frank Broyles would like to tell Keith Jackson "Whoa, Nellie" when it comes to his former broadcast partner's decision to retire after this year.

'Keith covered games I played in and we worked together at ABC Sports for decades. Jackson, however, always maintained that he might have - might have, mind you - used the phrase a time or two early in his career but that mostly it was the work of impersonators, primarily Roy Firestone, who were responsible for the spread of the phrase.

'Not just the voice, but the spirit of college football.

"If it's the end, then it's the end", Jackson said after that game in the ABC broadcast compound outside the Rose Bowl.

Jackson initially retired from broadcasting after calling Tennessee's BCS Championship win over Florida State in January 1999. He was a five-time National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association National Sportscaster of the Year recipient. He most famous sayings were "Whoa, Nellie", and his Rose Bowl tag "The 'Grandaddy of Them All".

Jackson leaves behind his wife Turi Ann, three grown children (Melanie, Lindsey, Christopher), and three grandchildren (Ian, Holly, Spencer).

- Curtis Rawls is a Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage and covers the National Football League and the New York Giants.