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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. He was 89.
Jackson died surrounded by his family, according to NBC Sports' Todd Harris.
Born in Roopville, Georgia, on Oct. 18, 1928, Jackson was also the first play-by-play broadcaster for “Monday Night Football” when it debuted in 1970 and covered a wide range of sports. He was known for his signature phrase “Whoa, Nellie!” after a big play. Jackson said the origin of the phrase came from his great-grandfather. He also coined the phrase “Big Uglies,” and christened Michigan’s football stadium “The Big House,” ESPN reported.
The voice of college football and so much more has left us. My mentor and dear friend, Keith Jackson passed last night surrounded by his family. Truly one of the greats in the broadcasting industry. I am grateful for my time with a true legend. Thank you for the lessons KJ. pic.twitter.com/SPGIZXrZNA— Todd Harris (@TheToddHarris) January 13, 2018
Jackson called 15 Rose Bowl games and was credited with calling the New Year’s Day game “The granddaddy of them all,” The New York Daily News reported. The final game he broadcast from Pasadena was the 2006 game in which Texas rallied to defeat USC for the national title.
Jackson was named national sportscaster of the year five times, the Daily News reported.
Jackson spent four years in the Marines and later graduated with a journalism degree from Washington State University, where he broadcast the team’s games.
He joined ABC’s college football announcing team in 1966, but also called NBA games, auto racing and was a staple on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.” He also announced World Series games, 10 Olympics and traveled to 31 countries, ESPN reported.
Jackson also had fun playing off his signature phrase, as this commercial for Miller Lite demonstrates:
Tributes to Jackson rolled in on Twitter:
Keith Jackson, the voice of college football, passed away last night at the age of 89.— SB Nation (@SBNation) January 13, 2018
RIP to the GOAT. pic.twitter.com/38G2v0yTJa
THE voice of college football and one of the most iconic voices of all time, RIP Keith Jackson. Thank you for all of the incredible Saturday’s.— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) January 13, 2018
When I hear Keith Jackson’s voice, I think of college football. He was college football. The best. Period.— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) January 13, 2018
This was Keith Jackson’s intro to the 100th game between Ohio State and Michigan in 2003. Still gives me chills. pic.twitter.com/DmfGemnhoY— Dustin Fox (@DustinFox37) January 13, 2018
Two legends lost in less than a month. Dick Enberg, now Keith Jackson.— Bonnie Bernstein (@BonnieBernstein) January 13, 2018
Irreplaceable voices. #RIP