NFL Sportscaster and Former Player Irv Cross Dead at 81: 'He Was a Constant Gentleman'

Irv Cross is survived by his wife Liz, four children, one grandson, eight siblings "and many nieces, nephews, cousins and in-laws," the Philadelphia Eagles announced

Irv Cross
Irv Cross. Photo: George Rose/Getty

Irv Cross, former professional football cornerback and celebrated pioneer sportscaster, has died. He was 81.

The death of Cross, who played for the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams during his NFL career throughout the 1960s and was selected twice for the Pro Bowl, was announced Sunday on the Eagles' website.

The team revealed that Cross died "early Sunday morning near his home in Roseville, Minnesota."

The Eagles did not reveal a cause of death for the former athlete. However, Cross told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2018 that he had been diagnosed with mild cognitive dementia, and was planning to donate his brain to Boston University after his death so they could test it for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Cross was born in Hammond, Indiana, in 1939, the eighth of 15 children. He participated in football, track and field and basketball at Hammond High School. He went on to play football at Northwestern before signing on with the Eagles, then the Rams before returning to the Eagles.

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irv Cross
Brent Musburger, Phyllis George, Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder and Irv Cross in 1976. CBS

Following his NFL playing career, Cross went on to serve as a game analyst for CBS Sports, and teamed up with fellow sportscasters Brent Musburger, Phyllis George and Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder for The NFL Today — the first-ever NFL pregame show, on which Cross was the first Black network sports show anchor — in the 1970s, remaining with CBS until 1994.

Later in his career, Cross was Idaho State University's athletic director (from 1996 to 1998) and director of athletics at Malcaster College (1999 to 2005). He also became the first Black person to receive the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame's Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award in 2009.

"I've been around all kinds of people, from every walk of life. I don't know that I could give you one person who was nicer than Irv Cross," Musburger said after Cross' death, according to the Eagles. "He was a constant gentleman."

"All of us at CBS Sports are saddened by the news of Irv Cross' passing," CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus told the Eagles. "Irv was a pioneer who made significant contributions to the storied history and tradition of CBS Sports and, along with Phyllis George and Brent Musburger, set the standard for NFL pregame shows with The NFL Today. He was a true gentleman and a trailblazer in the sports television industry and will be remembered for his accomplishments and the paths he paved for those who followed."

Irv Cross
Irv Cross in the late 1970s. Focus on Sport/Getty

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Clifton Brown, a sports writer and native of Philadelphia who worked with Cross on his memoir Bearing the Cross, called the late athlete and sportscaster "a deeply religious man" and noted to the Eagles, "I know he would want me to mention that."

"That was extremely important to him. He lived his life that way," Brown added. "It wasn't talk. I think that's part of the reason people loved working with him so much. He was kind. He was patient. He was forgiving. A lot of things that are preached if you're a religious person, it was truly that way."

On their website, the Eagles also described Cross as "a man deeply devoted to his faith" who is "survived by his wife, Liz; four children, Susan, Lisa, Matthew and Sarah; grandson Aiden; brothers Raymond, Teal and Sam; sisters Joan, Jackie, Julia, Pat and Gwen; and many nieces, nephews, cousins and in-laws."

"In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Alzheimer's Research and Prevention Foundation or the Concussion Legacy Foundation," they added.

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