NFL Football Hall of Famer and long-time sports broadcaster Frank Gifford died today at his Connecticut home at age 84.
He “died suddenly this beautiful Sunday morning of natural causes,” the family confirmed in a brief statement.
Receiver and running back Gifford attended the University of Southern California on a football scholarship before going pro. He played for the New York Giants in a career on the field that spanned 1952 to 1964. He made the Pro Bowl in seven of his 12 NFL seasons.
ESPN says “Gifford amassed 9,753 combined yards and his 78 touchdowns is still a Giants record. He also threw for 14 touchdowns as a master of the option pass from his halfback spot.” In 1956, leading the Giants to a league championship, he was named the National Football League’s Most Valuable Player.
The Associated Press writes:
“A handsome straight-shooter who came off as earnest and sincere, Gifford was popular with viewers, even if some accused him of being a shill for the NFL.
“He experienced the highs and lows as an NFL player. Gifford fumbled twice early in the 1958 NFL championship game, both of which led to Baltimore Colts touchdowns, and later came up short on a critical third down. The Colts eventually won 23-17 in the league’s first overtime game. The thrilling finish helped popularize the NFL and was dubbed ‘The Greatest Game Ever Played,’ although not by Gifford.”
Gifford also appeared in about a dozen movies, the AP says, most notably Up Periscope (1959), which starred James Garner.
But it was in television that he eventually made his post-NFL career, becoming a sports commentator for CBS in 1965 and in 1971, joining ABC as a co-hosting of Monday Night Football, where he stayed until 1985. In 1986, he married television talk show hostess Kathie Lee Epstein.
“We rejoice in the extraordinary life he was privileged to live, and we feel grateful and blessed to have been loved by such an amazing human being,” his family said in the statement. “We ask that our privacy be respected at this difficult time and we thank you for your prayers.”