On Sunday night, the Philadelphia Eagles announced that Pro Bowl cornerback and iconic broadcaster Irv Cross has passed away at age 81.
The former defensive back died early Sunday morning near his home in Roseville, Minnesota. Although a cause of death has not been shared, the Cross family is asking for donations in lieu of flowers to Alzheimer’s and concussion-based foundations.
Cross broke color barriers in the 1970s when he joined CBS Sports. He became the first Black sports anchor to work full-time on national television in 1971. Four years later, he made television history as part of The NFL Today crew. Cross joined Brent Musburger, Phyllis George and Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder for what would be the first live pregame show. The four sports analysts were pioneers of sports broadcasting and became household names in the ’70s.
Musburger spoke to Eagles’ reporter Chris McPherson about Cross and his character.
“I’ve been around all kinds of people, from every walk of life,” Musburger said to McPherson. “I don’t know that I could give you one person who was nicer than Irv Cross. He was a constant gentleman.”
Irv Cross and His Nine-Year NFL Career
In the 1961 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles selected Irv Cross in the seventh round. He played for Philly until 1965 before moving on to play for the Los Angeles Rams. He stayed in L.A. until he returned to the Eagles for one last season in 1969.
During his nine-year professional career, the Northwestern graduate earned two Pro Bowl appearances. He played as a cornerback and was a key contributor on special teams as well. Cross snagged 22 interceptions, grabbed 14 fumble recoveries, forced eight fumbles, and scored two defensive touchdowns in his NFL career. Additionally, he averaged an impressive 27.9 yards on kickoff returns and also returned punts.
Upon his return to the Eagles in 1969, Cross became a player/coach. The following season he retired, but stayed on the team’s coaching staff for one more season before moving into broadcasting.
After CBS Sports hired him, he covered various sports for the network before joining The NFL Today. Cross starred on the pregame show from 1975 through 1989.
In 2009, Cross received the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award. In addition, the native of Indiana was also inducted into the state’s football hall of fame.