Monday, October 18, 2021

Irv Cross, NFL Player and Pioneering Black Sports Analyst, Dies at 81 (Video)

*Irv Cross, the former Pro Bowl defensive back who broke color barriers as the first Black man to work full time as a sports analyst on national television, died Sunday at his home in Roseville, Minnesota, his son, Matthew, confirmed. He was 81. The cause of death was not revealed.

Long before the flood of NFL pregame shows, there was just one – “The NFL Today” on CBS. The must-see pregame show featured Cross, as well as Brent Musburger, Jack Whitaker, Phyllis George, Jimmy the Greek and Jayne Kennedy through the years.

Cross joined CBS Sports as an analyst in 1971. He spent 23 years at the network (14 with “The NFL Today”) and won the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award in 2009. He was the first Black recipient of the annual award, which seeks to recognize “longtime exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football.”

“All of us at CBS Sports are saddened by the news of Irv Cross’ passing,” CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said in a statement. “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.”

Musburger said Sunday, “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. He was a constant gentleman.”

CBS NFL Today Show
CBS NFL Today Show member Irv Cross during an NFL Football Game circa 1986. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Cross played nine seasons in the NFL as a defensive back, after being a seventh-round draft pick out of Northwestern in 1961. He played six of those seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and three with the Los Angeles Rams. He was a two-time Pro Bowl selection and snagged 22 interceptions during his career.

The eighth of 15 children, Cross is survived by his wife, Liz; children Susan, Lisa, Matthew and Sarah; grandson, Aiden; brothers Raymond, Teal and Sam; and sisters Joan, Jackie, Julia, Pat and Gwen.

Here’s vintage Irv Cross being professional and unflappable as Raiders marketing and promotions director Mike Ornstein barks at him to move off the field during a live sideline report from Super Bowl XVIII in Tampa.

Here’s more recent video of Irv Cross in 2019 supporting flag football for kids under 14.

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