Pat Summerall, football broadcaster, dies at 82

April 16, 2013

Pat Summerall, the deep-voiced NFL player-turned-broadcaster who formed a long-running announcing team with John Madden, died April 16 in Dallas. He was 82.

Susie Wiles, Mr. Summerall’s daughter, confirmed his death.

Mr. Summerall was part of network television broadcasts for 16 Super Bowls. His last championship game was for Fox on Feb. 3, 2002, which was also his last game with Madden. The popular duo worked together for 21 years, moving to Fox in 1994 after years as the lead team for CBS.

At the end of their final broadcast together, Madden described Mr. Summerall as “a treasure” and the “spirit of the National Football League.”

Mr. Summerall played 10 NFL seasons (1952-61) with the Chicago Cardinals and New York Giants as a place kicker and defensive end.

He started announcing NFL games for CBS in 1964, and became a play-by-play guy 10 years later. He was also part of CBS’s coverage of the PGA Tour, including the Masters from 1968 to 1994, and the U.S. Open tennis tournament.

When CBS lost its NFL deal after the 1993 season, Mr. Summerall switched to Fox to keep calling NFL games with Madden. He had hoped to keep working with CBS for other events such as the Masters, but network executives did not retain him.

A recovering alcoholic, Summerall had a well-publicized liver transplant in 2004. The lifesaving surgery was necessary even though Mr. Summerall had been sober for 12 years.

After an intervention involving, among others, former NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, former CBS Sports president Peter Lund and former PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beaman, Mr. Summerall checked into the Betty Ford Clinic in April 1992.

“I had no intention of quitting, I was having too good a time,” Mr. Summerall said in a 2000 Associated Press story. “The prescribed stay at Betty Ford is 28 days. They kept me 33 because I was so angry at the people who did the intervention, the first five days didn’t do me any good.”

Mr. Summerall received the liver of a 13-year-old junior high school football player from Arkansas who died unexpectedly from an aneurysm. Mr. Summerall had an emotional meeting with the teenager’s family the following year.

Mr. Summerall often told his story at speaking engagements and in a 2006 book, “Summerall: On and Off the Air.”

Long before his broadcasting career, Mr. Summerall played a role in what is known in football circles as “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” the 1958 NFL championship. His New York Giants lost to the Baltimore Colts, 23-17, in the NFL’s first overtime game.

George Allen Summerall was born May 10, 1930, in Lake City, Fla. He was an all-state football and basketball player in high school and lettered in baseball and tennis. He played college football at the University of Arkansas, from which he graduated in 1952, before going to the NFL.

After breaking his arm as a rookie with the Detroit Lions, Mr. Summerall played five years for the old Chicago Cardinals, followed by four seasons with the Giants. He played a few games at defensive end, but the 6-foot-4, 228-pound Mr. Summerall was primarily a kicker. He made 100 field goals and 256 of 265 extra points in his career. He scored 90 points as a kicker with the Giants in 1959 and converted 46 extra points without a miss in 1961, his final season.

“I was in four championship games before there was a Super Bowl, so I remember those very well,” Mr. Summerall said in a 2009 interview with the Associated Press. “Broadcasting, I remember the last [Super Bowl] I did. Of course, I remember that. I remember the first one most vividly than any of the rest.”

Mr. Summerall was part of the NBC and CBS simulcast of the inaugural Super Bowl in Los Angeles on Jan. 15, 1967. After working the first half in the broadcast booth, he switched places with broadcaster and former Giants teammate Frank Gifford at halftime and was a sideline reporter during the second half.

Mr. Summerall became a play-by-play announcer in 1974.

After his final game with Madden, Mr. Summerall remained a full-time broadcaster for Fox for one more year, doing primarily Dallas Cowboys games during the 2002 season. He decided to step down and retired to the Dallas area.

Mr. Summerall later did a handful of NFL games for Fox and ESPN and did play-by-play for Fox’s broadcast of the Cotton Bowl from 2007 to 2010. For the Dallas bowl game’s 75th anniversary in January 2011, Mr. Summerall conducted interviews as part of the pregame show and game broadcast.

Complete information about survivors could not be confirmed.

— Associated Press

Most Read Local