NBC News reports that former NFL running back, Monday Night Football announcer, and football Hall of Famer Frank Gifford passed away this morning at the age of 84. Here is the statement that his family released:
It is with the deepest sadness that we announce the sudden passing of our beloved husband, father and friend, Frank Gifford. Frank died suddenly this beautiful Sunday morning of natural causes at his Connecticut home. 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. We ask that our privacy be respected at this difficult time and we thank you for your prayers.
After an All-American career at USC, Gifford played for the New York Giants for 12 seasons, and made eight Pro Bowls. He led the Giants to an NFL Championship in 1956, being named the league’s MVP along the way.
Gifford was one of the last great multi-position players, playing running back, wide receiver, or defensive back at various points in his career, and sometimes all three in the same game. In 1953 he averaged almost 50 minutes per game playing both sides of the ball, an incredible feat. He missed a season-and-a-half of football after a vicious hit from Chuck Bednarik caused a concussion and fractured vertebrae in 1960, but returned for three seasons and made one final Pro Bowl appearance.
To most people under the age of 50, however, Gifford is better known as one-third of the iconic Monday Night Football broadcasting trio that included Howard Cosell and Don Meredith. Gifford took over play-by-play duties from Keith Jackson in 1971, Monday Night Football’s second season, and kept at it for 14 more years, helping it become the sporting culture institution that it still somewhat remains today. His broadcasting career was basically ended in 1997, when The Globe tabloid filmed Gifford cheating on his wife, television host Kathie Lee Gifford, with flight attendant Suzen Johnson.
Gifford is survived by his wife Kathie Lee, as well as their two children and three from a previous marriage.
Update (3:41 p.m.): Via Mike Garafolo, here are statements from the Giants ownership:
John Mara: “Frank Gifford was the ultimate Giant. He was the face of our franchise for so many years. More importantly, he was a treasured member of our family. My father loved him like a son and was proud to act as his presenter for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a favor Frank returned years later by presenting my father in Canton. For my siblings and me, Frank was like a revered older brother whom we looked up to and admired. We loved him and will miss him terribly.”
Steve Tisch: “Not only was Frank a member of the Giants family from the time he left USC, and will be forever, but because Frank, my father (Bob) and Pete Rozelle were so close in the ‘60s, I felt like he was a member of my family. I always loved seeing Frank on our sideline before our games. He had the handshake of a 25-year old, and he looked you right in the eye with his big blue eyes. He was such a strong person in every way. He will be missed and will always be remembered as a Giants’ Giant.”
Update (4:15 p.m.): Here is Jim Nantz reacting to Gifford’s death live while calling a World Golf Championships tournament: