Many NFL teams have had players who have been the “face of a franchise” for a decade. The 1980’s 49ers had Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. When you think of the 1970’s Steelers, it is Terry Bradshaw and Mean Joe Greene that come to mind. You can’t think of Green Bay in the 1960’s without Bart Starr.
Back in the 1950’s and even into the early 60’s the New York Giants were synonymous with Frank Gifford. On August 9th that Giant was called up to a different Locker-room as the 84 year old passed away from natural causes.
Current Giants President John Mara said of the former great “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.”
A lot of you may not know how truly great Gifford was. During his career he led the Giants to five Eastern Conference Titles and one NFL Championship.
A Number 1 Draft Pick out of USC in 1952, Gifford went on to win league MVP honors in 1956, while leading the Giants to the title.
Then in 1961 against the hated Eagles, Gifford took one of the most vicious hits in NFL history, and many thought his career was over. He returned in 1962 and switched from halfback to flanker to take advantage of his great pass-catching skills, regaining his star status once again.
During his career, Gifford was a Pro-Bowler eight times, playing DB, halfback and flanker, before finally hanging them up for good in 1964. But little did anyone know at the time, his career in sports was far from over.
It seems commonplace nowadays to see a former athlete in the broadcast booth, but back in 1971 Gifford was one of the first former players to make the switch, when he joined ABC’s Monday Night Football with fellow ex-player Don Meredith and of course Howard Cosell.
His career in the booth was even more successful than even his time on the field, which is really saying something considering he was inducted into both the College and Pro Football Hall’s of Fame.
He was in the booth at Monday Night Football longer than anyone, as he went all the way until 1997 calling games alongside the likes of Cosell, Al Michaels and even the failed Dennis Miller experiment. Through it all, you knew after that great opening music one of the voices that was coming was Gifford’s. He was one of the voices that told the nation that John Lennon had died in 1980.
Gifford also served as a reporter and commentator on other ABC programs, such as their coverage of the Olympic Games (perhaps most notably, the controversial men’s basketball Gold Medal game between the United States and Soviet Union at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich), skiing, and golf, and has guest hosted Good Morning America on occasion.
He met his wife Kathie Lee while filling in as GMA host.
To show his versatility, Gifford even called Evil Knievel’s jumps for Wild World of Sports in the 1970’s, including his famed failure to clear 13 buses and Wembley Stadium in London.
He even won an Emmy for his work at ABC Sports. He was a true legend both on and off the field, a pioneer without whom the sports landscape would be vastly different, and a husband and father. He will be missed in ALL roles.