Pat Summerall—best-known as the voice of NFL telecasts on CBS and Fox and commentator John Madden’s perfect complement—died Tuesday at age 82 of cardiac arrest.
No doubt impersonated in many a backyard football game, the deep, resonant voice of Summerall, who had a simple, understated style, soothed American television audiences for more than four decades.
“He was royalty in the broadcast booth,” Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.
At the end of their final broadcast together at the 2002 Super Bowl, Madden called Summerall “a treasure” and “the spirit of the National Football League.”
In a statement Tuesday, Madden said, “Pat was my broadcasting partner for a long time, but more than that he was my friend for all of these years. Pat Summerall is the voice of football and always will be.”
Summerall entered the broadcast booth after playing 10 seasons (1952-1961) as a kicker and defensive back for the Chicago Cardinals and New York Giants. In 1964 he started working on CBS NFL broadcasts and became a play-by-play man 10 years later. Summerall called 16 Super Bowls and was also the leading voice of CBS’s golf coverage, including the Masters, and the U.S. Open tennis tournament.
After the 1993 NFL season, when CBS lost its rights to broadcast NFL games, Summerall along with Madden switched to Fox, the network that outbid CBS.
“He always had a joke,” Madden said. “Pat never complained and we never had an unhappy moment. He was something very special.”
Though much of Summerall’s adult life was marred by alcohol, he became a Christian in the early 1990s after he entered rehab at the Betty Ford Clinic. From that point forward, he shared his testimony freely, both in the public arena and in his autobiography, Summerall: On and Off the Air.
“My thirst for alcohol was being replaced by a thirst for knowledge about faith and God,” Summerall wrote. “I began reading the Bible regularly at the treatment center, and it became a part of my daily routine. The more I read, the more I felt a void in my life that needed to be filled.”
Summerall remained sober from that point on.