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Sports Then and Now

Pat Summerall: A Broadcasting Legend

Posted on September 02, 2010 by Dean Hybl

Pat Summerall

Our Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the month for September had very long associations with two of the sports that make headlines each September. Pat Summerall played in the NFL for 10 years before becoming one of the most recognized announcers in the sport. He also served as the voice of the U.S. Open tennis championships for CBS for more than two decades.

After playing college football at Arkansas, Summerall was drafted by the Detroit Lions, but a broken arm ended his first season in the league. He was traded to the Chicago Cardinals and spent five seasons with them primarily as a placekicker.

In an era when kickers were not often as involved in deciding games as they are today, Summerall converted 41% of his field goals and 95% of extra points with the Cardinals. He also played some defense and had the only pass interception of his career along with three fumble recoveries.

Summerall joined the New York Giants in 1958 and helped lead the team to the NFL Championship Game. His 49-yard field goal in the regular season finale against the Cleveland Browns ensured a playoff for the conference title, which the Giants won.

The 1959 season was the best of Summerall’s career as he converted a career-best 69% of his field goals (20 of 29) and was perfect on extra points while scoring a career-high 90 points. He retired after scoring 88 points in the 1961 season.

Summerall began his broadcasting career working part-time for New York Giant games in 1962. In 1964 he was hired by CBS to serve as a color commentator for NFL broadcasts. He served in that role until 1974 when he moved to the role of play-by-play announcer.

During the 1970s, Summerall and Tom Brookshier formed the number one duo for CBS and partnered on many big broadcasts, including a number of Super Bowls.

Summerall and John Madden were football's best known broadcasting duo for 22 years.

In 1981, Summerall began working full-time with John Madden and the pair became the most recognized football broadcasting duo of all-time. Their pairing spanned two networks as they both left CBS for Fox in 1994 after the fledgling network won the NFL broadcasting rights. They served together in the booth for 22 seasons with their final broadcast together being the memorable Patriots-Rams Super Bowl XXXVI following the 2001 season.

After initially retiring following the 2001 season, Summerall was coaxed out of retirement and worked regional NFL games for Fox with Brian Baldinger as his partner. Since then he has broadcast occasional NFL and college games, but only on a part-time basis.

During his career, Summerall served as a television announcer for a record 16 Super Bowls and also contributed to radio broadcasts of 10 Super Bowls.

In addition to being the voice of the NFL, Summerall was also a regular part of the golf Masters and tennis U.S. Open coverage teams for CBS for many years. He and Tony Trabert together called some of the great matches in U.S. Open history.

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