Legendary college football announcer Keith Jackson, who also was the first play-by-play in Monday Night Football history, died Friday night, ESPN announced. He was 89.
Jackson, who retired from announcing in 2006, started calling college football games for ABC Sports in 1966. He called the first ever Monday Night Football game between the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns on Sept. 21, 1970. He also announced American Football League games in the 1960s and USFL games for ABC in the 1980s.
In addition to football, Jackson covered the World Series, NBA games, 10 Olympics and auto racing over a career that spanned more than 50 years. He was a five-time National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association National Sportscaster of the Year recipient.
“For generations of fans, Keith Jackson was college football,” said Bob Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Company. “When you heard his voice, you knew it was a big game. Keith was a true gentleman and memorable presence. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Turi Ann, and his family.”
Jackson called some of the most iconic games in college football history. He called 15 Rose Bowls and 16 Sugar Bowls. He’s best remembered for using the phrase “Whoa, Nellie” during broadcasts while also describing the Rose Bowl as “The Grandaddy of Them All.” He also is credited with first describing Michigan Stadium as “The Big House.”
The 2006 Rose Bowl, which featured Vince Young leading Texas to victory over USC, was the final college game Jackson called before retiring.
Jackson was born on Oct. 18, 1928, in Georgia and served in the Marines before attending Washington State University, where he started his broadcasting career in the early 1950s. Prior to joining ABC Sports in the 1960s, he spent 10 years at ABC affiliate KOMO-TV in Seattle in news and sports production.