One of the greatest sportscasters in history has died. Pat Summerall, who teamed with John Madden to form the CBS number one National Football League broadcasting duo, was 82. Summerall also was the lead announcer at 27 Masters Golf Tournaments and over 20 United States Tennis Open Championships.
Perhaps Summerall's greatest achievement was overcoming his addiction to alcohol. Summerall entered the Betty Ford Clinic in 1992 for a five week stay and when he came out, he never drank again. Unfortunately, the alcoholism had taken its toll on Summerall's liver, and in 2004, the Hall of Fame announcer received a liver transplant.
Most everyone knows about Summerall's accomplishments behind the microphone, but did you know Summerall was a four-sport star at Lake City High School in Florida? Summerall was an All-State selection in both football and basketball and was the 16-and-under state tennis champion. He was also an accomplished baseball player.
The 6'4" all-sports standout was offered a basketball scholarship by legendary Kentucky Coach Adolph Rupp, but Summerall wanted to play football as well, and Rupp's policy was "no football allowed." Summerall instead opted to sign a football scholarship with the Arkansas Razorbacks, where the lanky youngster would go on to play defensive end, tight end and serve as the Hog place kicker.
During the 1951 season, the Razorbacks took on the fourth ranked Texas Longhorns. Did you know it was Summerall's field goal that provided the decisive points in Arkansas' 16-14 upset of their archrival that day? It was the Razorbacks' first win over the hated 'Horns since 1938.
After Summerall's college career ended, he tried his hand at professional baseball in the St. Louis Cardinal organization. When Summerall realized he had no future in baseball, he moved on to the NFL, where he played offensive and defensive end as well as place kicker. The Detroit Lions selected him in the fourth round of the 1952 draft. He suited up for two games that season but did not play. Summerall went on to play five seasons with the Chicago Cardinals and four with the New York Giants before retiring after the 1961 season.
Summerall's 50-yard field goal in a snow storm lifted the Giants to a key victory over the Cleveland Browns, allowing the New Yorkers to play in what many consider the greatest game ever, the sudden death clash with the Baltimore Colts in the 1958 title game.
Finally, did you know that when Madden was selected to be the color commentator for CBS, he told the network he would only take the job if Summerall was given the play-by-play position? CBS quickly said yes, and NFL fans were treated to Summerall's velvet voice for the next 20 plus years.
"I was so lucky I got to work with Pat," said Madden. "He was so easy to work with. He knew how to use words. For a guy like myself who rambles on and on and doesn't always make sense, he was sent from heaven. He was something very special. He was the voice of football and always will be."
And did you know that Summerall's new liver came from a 13-year old junior high football player from Arkansas? Summerall stayed in touch with the boy's family until his recent death. Summerall was not just a superb sportscaster; apparently, he was also quite a gentleman.