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Irv Cross, Black sports broadcasting pioneer, dies at 81

Irv Cross, who played nine seasons as an NFL cornerback and was a sports broadcasting pioneer, died Sunday near his home in Roseville, Minn. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Irv Cross, who played nine seasons as an NFL cornerback and was a sports broadcasting pioneer, died Sunday near his home in Roseville, Minn. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

March 1 (UPI) -- Irv Cross, a former NFL player and the first Black person in history to work as a full-time sports analyst on national TV, has died. He was 81.

The Philadelphia Eagles announced Cross' death and said he died Sunday morning near his home in Roseville, Minn. The cause of death was not given.

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"All of us at CBS Sports are saddened by the news of Irv Cross' passing," CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said in a statement.

"Irv was a pioneer who made significant contributions to the storied history and tradition of CBS Sports and, along with Phyllis George and Brent Musburger, set the standard for NFL pregame shows with The NFL Today.

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"He was a true gentleman and a trailblazer in the sports television industry and will be remembered for his accomplishments and the paths he paved for those who followed."

Cross was born in Hammond, Ind., and attended Northwestern University, where he was part of legendary coach Ara Parseghian's first recruiting class for the Wildcats.

The former cornerback then entered the league as a seventh-round pick in the 1961 NFL Draft. Cross spent his first five seasons with the Eagles. He made the Pro Bowl in 1964 and 1965.

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Cross also played three seasons for the Los Angeles Rams. He spent his final season in 1969 with the Eagles.

Cross worked as a local radio and TV sports reporter while he played in Philadelphia. He also worked as both an Eagles player/defensive backs coach in his final NFL season. He kept the coaching role in 1970.

He joined CBS in 1971 when he became the first Black person to work as a full-time sports analyst on national TV. Cross remained at the network until 1994. His role with the network included coverage of track and field and gymnastics, as well as football.

Cross later served as the athletic director at Idaho State and Macalester College.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame awarded Cross with the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award in 2009, making him the first Black person to ever receive the honor.

Cross is survived by his wife, Liz, daughters Susan, Lisa and Sarah, and son Matthew.

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