Pat Summerall and John Madden welcome CBS viewers to the 1984 NFC wildcard game at Anaheim Stadium.
Pat Summerall, whose classy understated and clutter-free call of a record-16 Super Bowl games for CBS and Fox stamped his career after 10 years playing in the NFL, died Tuesday near Dallas.
He was 82 and suffered cardiac arrest while in the hospital recovering from a broken hip.
“Pat was my broadcasting partner for a long time, but more than that he was my friend for all of these years,” said John Madden, teamed with Summerall for 21 seasons starting in 1981.
“We never had one argument, and that was because of Pat. He was a great broadcaster and a great man. He always had a joke. Pat never complained and we never had an unhappy moment. He was something very special. Pat Summerall is the voice of football and always will be.”
At the first NFL-AFL Championship game played at the Coliseum on Jan. 15, 1967 — before it was called a Super Bowl — Summerall did the first half in the broadcast booth with Ray Scott, then went to the sidelines for the second half, switching roles with Frank Gifford, who teamed with Jack Whitaker.
Summerall was a colorman in five Super Bowls and on play-by-play for 11 of them, the last three with Fox.
In an interview with Summerall and Madden together on SiriusXM Satellite radio in 2012, Madden said the secret to Summerall’s success was his ability to tie together a moment that Madden had already tended to over analyze.
“Well, you know, I tend to be a rambler, as you know, and Pat could punctuate anything I said,” said Madden. “And that gave me a real confidence that I could go anywhere, any way, and sometimes, I mean, a play would start up and you wouldn’t be finished and he could, in two or three words, sum up what I’d been saying in five minutes or whatever.
“He’d been a player. He’d been a coach. He’d been an analyst. He’d been a play-by-play guy. There was nothing that could happen in an NFL game that was new to Pat Summerall. So that gave you a confidence, when you go in there, that no matter what comes up today, Pat can handle it because he’s been there and done it before.”
He began as a colorman with Chris Schenkel on New York Giants games in ’62, moved to NFL games in 1964 and made the unprecedented switch to play-by-play in 1974. He last worked as a full-time broadcaster in the NFC championship game in 2002 with Madden. Summerall was with Tom Brookshier for six seasons before that.
Summerall, drafted out of the University of Arkansas by the Detroit Lions, played for the Chicago Cardinals and New York Giants as a place kicker, offensive end and defensive end from 1952-61 before getting into the new field of broadcasting.
George Allen Summerall was born on May 10, 1930 in Lake City, Fla., an All-State prep football and basketball player also lettered in baseball and tennis. The 6-foot-4 Summerall turned down a basketball scholarship by Adolph Rupp at Kentucky to attend Arkansas and play football, basketball and baseball. He also played minor league baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals.
The urban legend was his nickname became “Pat” because of the abbreviation of “point after touchdown” that a field-goal kicker was credited for in a game summary. But in a 1997 Dallas Morning News story, Summerall said after his parents divorced, he was take in by an aunt and uncle who had a son named Mike.
“My aunt and uncle just started calling me Pat to go with their Mike,” said Summerall, referring to frequently named characters in Irish jokes told during that time.
His drinking days with Brookshier led to a stay at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage. A liver transplant extended Summerall’s life in 2004 at age 73 during his sobriety from alcoholism. It led to the publishing of his autobiography in 2006.
Summerall stayed active in broadcasting for Fox, calling the Cotton Bowl in Dallas for the network from 2007-10 and appearing on the pre-game show in 2011.
He was inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame in 1994, the same year he was given the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
As the Associated Press noted in its obituary, Summerall’s final play-by-play words beside Madden was calling a game-ending field goal: “It’s right down the pipe. Adam Vinatieri. No time on the clock. And the Patriots have won Super Bowl XXXVI. Unbelievable.”
== A story on Summerall’s passing by the Dallas Morning News’ Barry Horn
== An interview Summerall and Madden did for SiriuxXM NFL Satellite Radio in Feb. 2012.