Keith Jackson, Legendary College Football Sportscaster, Dies at 89

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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.

"For generations of fans, Keith Jackson was college football", Bob Iger, the Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, told ESPN.

"Just heard the news that everyone's favorite CFB broadcaster Keith Jackson passed away last night", sportscaster and former Ohio State quarterback Kirk Herbstreit said on Twitter.

Jackson leaves behind his wife Turi Ann, three grown children (Melanie, Lindsey, Christopher), and three grandchildren (Ian, Holly, Spencer).

The first time I remember hearing Jackson on the call for a game was the 1991 game between Ohio State and MI that clinched the Heisman Trophy for Michigan's Desmond Howard.

Jackson was also iconic in two major games within college football.

After graduating, Jackson spent 10 years at ABC affiliate KOMO in Seattle in news, sports and production, at first in radio and then television, including a time as the news co-anchor. His twang came from Georgia, but he learned to call games on the other side of the country while attending Washington State on the G.I. Bill.

In addition to college football, he worked NFL and National Basketball Association games, summer and winter Olympics, world series and traveled to more than 3o countries as part of "Wide World of Sports". Jackson covered college football for the entirety of his career, and his "Woah, Nellie" and "Hold the phone!" catchphrases are well known, as is his pacing and storytelling style.

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The greatest broadcasters have the knack for marrying their narration to the moment without stepping all over it, and this was Jackson's special gift.

Jackson, whose signature expression is "Whoa, Nellie", began broadcasting college games in 1952.

Jackson retired in 2006, famously saying he "didn't want to die in a parking lot".

It was fitting, because no one embodied that network's once-proud sports division better than Jackson, including this oft-forgotten historical quirk: In 1970 he was the first play-by-play man for "Monday Night Football". "It was always about the kids on the field", he said. The stadiums TV and radio booths were renamed "The Keith Jackson Broadcast Center" in 2005. The game famously ended when Texas QB Vince Young sprinted into the end zone on a fourth-down play with 19 seconds left to give the Longhorns the national title.

USC athletic director Lynn Swann, another broadcast partner of Jackson, said in a statement Saturday: 'I am saddened to hear the news of Keith Jackson's death.

In 1987, Sports Illustrated chronicled some of Jackson's most popular descriptions. "If I've helped people enjoy the telecast, that's fine", Jackson said.

The National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, now known as the National Sports Media Association, named Jackson sportscaster of the year five consecutive times, from 1972-1976.

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