• Legendary sportscaster Keith Jackson dead at 89

    By: Bob D'Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk


    Keith Jackson, whose Southern drawl and homespun, folksy phrases endeared him to college football fans for more than half a century, died Friday night, ESPN reported. He was 89.

    Jackson was a broadcaster for years in Seattle.

    Jackson died surrounded by his family, according to NBC Sports' Todd Harris.

    Born in Roopville, Georgia, on Oct. 18, 1928, Jackson was also the first play-by-play broadcaster for “Monday Night Football” when it debuted in 1970 and covered a wide range of sports. He was known for his signature phrase “Whoa, Nellie!” after a big play. Jackson said the origin of the phrase came from his great-grandfather. He also coined the phrase “Big Uglies,” and christened Michigan’s football stadium “The Big House,” ESPN reported.

    Jackson worked for KOMO radio and TV in the 1950s and 60s before taking a job with ABC’s Wide World of Sports in 1964. 

    During his time at KOMO, Jackson was the face of Husky football broadcasts, including the Dawgs 8-7 win over Washington State in 1960 and the UW’s upset of No. 1 Minnesota later that season in the Rose Bowl. 

    Jackson also called Washington State University games, Seafair Gold Cup races and Seattle University basketball in the 1960s with color commentator Johnny O’Brien. 

    At the annual Sports Star of the Year award in Seattle, the Keith Jackson Award is now given at the to a member of the media for excellence in communicating the sports stories of Washington state. 

    “The one thing that he always said was, ‘Don’t be that guy they have to prop up. Be that guy that’s ready to go,’” said KIRO 7 anchor Steve Raible, who received the Keith Jackson Award in 2015. “I’ll never forget that. That was some of the best advice I ever got. 

    “He was simply the best.”

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    Jackson called 15 Rose Bowl games and was credited with calling the New Year’s Day game “The granddaddy of them all,” The New York Daily News reported. The final game he broadcast from Pasadena was the 2006 game in which Texas rallied to defeat USC for the national title.

    Jackson was named national sportscaster of the year five times, the Daily News reported.

    Jackson spent four years in the Marines and later graduated with a journalism degree from Washington State University, where he broadcast the team’s games.

    He joined ABC’s college football announcing team in 1966, but also called NBA games, auto racing and was a staple on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.” He also announced World Series games, 10 Olympics and traveled to 31 countries, ESPN reported.

    Jackson also had fun playing off his signature phrase, as this commercial for Lite Beer demonstrates:

    Tributes to Jackson rolled in on Twitter:


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