Irv Cross, a Pro Bowl defensive back who became the first Black full-time sports analyst on national television, died Feb. 28 near his home in Roseville, Minn. He was 81.

His son Matthew confirmed the death to the Philadelphia Eagles, with whom Mr. Cross spent six of his nine National Football League seasons, but did not give a cause. Mr. Cross had dementia, which he attributed to concussions from his playing days, and had arranged to donate his brain to Boston University for a study of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative disease.

Mr. Cross starred at Northwestern University, playing under coach Ara Parseghian — later a legend at Notre Dame — before being drafted in the seventh round by the Eagles in December 1960. He was selected for the Pro Bowl in the 1964 and 1965 seasons and then spent three years with the Los Angeles Rams before returning to the Eagles as a player-coach for his final season in 1969.

For his career, he had 22 interceptions, 14 fumble recoveries, eight forced fumbles and a pair of defensive touchdowns. “No one in the league tackles harder than that Cross,” Hall of Fame fullback Jim Brown said after a game in 1965. Mr. Cross also averaged 27.9 yards on kickoff returns and returned punts.

He joined CBS Sports in 1971, becoming the first Black anchor on a network sports show four years later. His colleagues on “The NFL Today,” a pregame show, included Brent Musburger, Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder and Phyllis George, who died in May. Mr. Cross also covered track and field, gymnastics and the National Basketball Association.

CBS told him it would not renew his contract in 1992.

“I didn’t have an agent, and I didn’t search for a TV position as aggressively as I should have,” he later told Sports Illustrated. “I just quietly faded away.”

He served as athletic director at Idaho State University and Macalester College in Minnesota, and in 2009 received the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award.

The eighth of 15 children, Irvin Acie Cross was born in Hammond, Ind., on July 27, 1939. In a memoir, “Bearing the Cross” (2017), he recalled that his father, a steelworker, would get drunk and beat his mother after getting paid on Friday nights. She died while giving birth when he was 10.

His father stopped drinking, and Mr. Cross began throwing himself into athletics, including track and baseball, ultimately leading to a tryout with the Chicago White Sox.

His first marriage ended in divorce. Survivors include his wife, Liz; four children; three brothers; five sisters; and a grandson.

Mr. Cross started preparing for a broadcasting career while still playing for the Eagles, doing sports radio commentary and television work in the offseason. But when he started at “The NFL Today,” he found himself pigeonholed and stereotyped, asked to wear a gold chain and partly unbuttoned leisure shirt in the show’s first season.

“I refused. Vigorously,” he told Sports Illustrated in 1996. “Finally [CBS Sports chief Robert J.] Wussler said, ‘Aah, just dress the way you feel comfortable.’ I wore a coat and tie. That was me.”

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