Keith Jack­son dies at 89

San Francisco Chronicle - - PAGE 2 - By Jay Reeves Jay Reeves is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

ABC’s sig­na­ture voice of col­lege football, whose phrases like “Whoa, Nelly!” and coun­try flour­ishes were a sta­ple of au­tumn Satur­day broad­casts and other big games through five decades, died Fri­day. See story, page

Keith Jack­son, whose sig­na­ture phrases like “Whoa, Nelly” made him the down-home voice of col­lege football dur­ing more than five decades as a sports­caster, has died. He was 89.

Jack­son died Fri­day, ac­cord­ing to ESPN, which con­sol­i­dated with ABC Sports, Jack­son’s long­time em­ployer. No cause or place of death was given. Jack­son was a long­time res­i­dent of Sher­man Oaks (Los An­ge­les County) and Pen­der Har­bor, Bri­tish Columbia.

A na­tive of ru­ral west Ge­or­gia, his smooth bari­tone voice and use of phrases like “big uglies” for line­men gave his game calls a fa­mil­iar feel.

He might be best known for his “Whoa, Nelly” ex­cla­ma­tion, but he didn’t overuse it dur­ing games. Bor­rowed from his great-grand­fa­ther, a farmer, the phrase was also part of a com­mer­cial Jack­son did for Miller Lite in the mid-’90s.

In an in­ter­view in 2013, Jack­son said his folksy lan­guage stemmed from his ru­ral up­bring­ing and he be­came com­fort­able with the us­age through the years.

“I would go around and pluck things off the bush and see if I could find a dif­fer­ent way to say some things. And the older I got, the more will­ing I was to go back into the South­ern ver­nac­u­lar be­cause some of it’s funny,” Jack­son said.

Bob Iger, CEO of the Walt Disney Co., which owns ESPN, said lis­ten­ers “knew it was a big game” when they heard Jack­son’s voice.

“For gen­er­a­tions of fans, Keith Jack­son was col­lege football,” Iger said.

Jack­son’s death comes just three weeks af­ter that of an­other sportscast­ing ti­tan — Dick En­berg, known for his own ex­cited calls of “Oh, my” dur­ing a 60-year ca­reer.

Today’s col­lege football broad­cast­ers paid tribute to Jack­son on so­cial me­dia.

Kirk Herb­streit said in a tweet that Jack­son was “ev­ery­one’s fa­vorite CFB broad­caster.”

“Can close my eyes and think of so many of his spe­cial calls. Thank you Keith for all the mem­o­ries and the grace in which you pro­vided them,” Herb­streit wrote.

Des­mond Howard, who re­turned a punt for a touch­down at Michi­gan in one of Jack­son’s best­known calls, tweeted that he had a hard time ex­press­ing how much Jack­son meant to him, his alma mater and col­lege football.

“May his fam­ily find some com­fort in know­ing how much joy he brought us for so many years and that his legacy en­dures,” Howard said.

Af­ter serv­ing four years in the Ma­rine Corps, Jack­son broad­cast his first col­lege football game in 1952 as an un­der­grad­u­ate at Washington State. He worked in ra­dio and tele­vi­sion be­fore join­ing ABC Sports in 1966.

Although best known for col­lege football, Jack­son also called base­ball All-Star and World Series games, did NBA play-by­play and cov­ered both Win­ter and Sum­mer Olympics.

Jack­son first an­nounced his re­tire­ment in 1998 but re­turned to work. He fi­nally re­tired af­ter the 2006 Rose Bowl and is a mem­ber of the Sports Broad­cast­ing Hall of Fame.

He is sur­vived by his wife of 63 years, Turi Ann.

ABC 1998

Richard Shotwell / As­so­ci­ated Press 2014

Keith Jack­son was the voice of col­lege football for more than five decades as a broad­caster.

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