Keith Jackson, Legendary Voice Of College Football, Dead At 89

Video by CBS Sports

Keith Jackson, the voice of college football for more than a half-century, has died. The ABC Sports broadcasting legend was 89.

Jackson, forever remembered for his signature "Whoa, Nellie" call, died Friday night surrounded by his family, according to NBC Sports' Todd Harris.

"The voice of college football and so much more has left us," Harris wrote on Twitter Saturday morning. "Truly one of the greats in the broadcasting industry. I am grateful for my time with a true legend. Thank you for the lessons KJ."

Jackson spent 56 years broadcasting college football, including 15 Rose Bowls. His final game before he retired was the 2006 thriller between USC and Texas at the famed game in Pasadena. It was Jackson who proclaimed the Rose Bowl "The Grandaddy of Them All." The stadiums TV and radio booths were renamed "The Keith Jackson Broadcast Center" in 2005.

Los Angeles Times columnist BillPlaschke wrote this about Jackson when he interviewed the legend a decade after he stepped away from the broadcast booth.

To hear him again is to be taken back to your childhood again, sitting in front of the television with a bologna sandwich and a Coke as the Saturday afternoon sun slowly sets on that lawn you just mowed, watching Bo and Woody and Bear come to life through a syrupy ballad that still sounds wonderfully like some kid breaking tackles and sprinting through a weed-choked field in rural nowhere.

Although Jackson will always be linked to his beloved college football, his career at ABC also included being the first "Monday Night Football" play-by-play announcer, a staple on "Wide World of Sports" and Olympic broadcasts. He also called NBA, MLB and college basketball games.

Kirk Herbstreit, the former Ohio State QB and current ESPN college football analyst, called Jackson the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) in a social media post Saturday.

"Just heard the news that everyone’s favorite CFB broadcaster Keith Jackson passed away last night. Can close my eyes and think of so many of his special calls. Thank you Keith for all the memories and the grace in which you provided them. RIP Keith," Herbstreit wrote.

Jackson also gave us the term "Big Uglies" for the offensive linemen who toil in the trenches and nicknamed Michigan Stadium "The Big House."

'We, too, are saddened to hear of (Jackson's passing)," the University of Michigan tweeted on its official athletics feed. "One of the greatest to ever do it."

Jackson, who was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 1999, was also honored by both the American Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame (1994) and the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame (1995).

A native of Georgia, Jackson served in the Marine Corps before attending Washington State University where the broadcast building was renamed in his honor in 2014.

"Incredibly saddened to hear the loss of a broadcasting legend, the voice of college football across the Country, and WSU Cougar great, Keith Jackson," his alma mater tweeted. "His impact will live on forever."

"I want to be remembered as a good ol' boy who married a gorgeous lady and we had a great life together," Jackson told Plaschke in 2015.

He will remembered for that and so much more.

Related slideshow: Notable sports deaths of 2018 (Provided by photo services)

  • Slide 1 of 7: NBA Legend Jo Jo White waves to the crowd during the Martin Luther King, Jr. Sports Legacy Symposium before a game against the New Orleans Pelicans and the Memphis Grizzlies on January 20, 2014 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee.
  • Slide 2 of 7: Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski (3) throws during the first half of the Holiday Bowl NCAA college football game against Michigan State Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
  • Slide 3 of 7: Cyrille Regis
  • Slide 4 of 7: Hall of Fame umpire Doug Harvey is introduced at Clark Sports Center during the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony on July 22, 2012 in Cooperstown, New York.
  • Slide 5 of 7: March 1965:  American racing driver Dan Gurney at the Race of Champions meeting at Brands Hatch.
  • Slide 6 of 7: FILE - In this Sept. 13, 2014, file photo, Washington State alumnus Keith Jackson smiles after raising the Cougar flag before the start of an NCAA college football game against Portland State at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. Jackson, the down-home voice of college football during more than five decades as a broadcaster, died Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. He was 89.
  • Slide 7 of 7: FILE - In this Aug. 27, 1996, file photo, Yale University head football coach Carmen Cozza walks across the practice field in West Haven, Conn. Cozza, who led Yale to a share of 10 Ivy League titles during 32 years as coach died Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, the university said. He was 87.
>Full screen1/7 SLIDES © Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images

Jo Jo White, Jan. 16

NBA Hall of Famer and Celtics legend JoJo White died Tuesday after a battle with cancer according to multiple reports. He was 71.

2/7 SLIDES © Denis Poroy/AP Photo

Tyler Hilinski, Jan. 16

Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski was found dead in an apartment in Pullman, Washington on Tuesday, 16th January 2018.

3/7 SLIDES © Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock

Cyrille Regis, Jan. 15

Cyrille Regis, former West Brom and England striker, dies at age 59. 

4/7 SLIDES © Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Doug Harvey, Jan. 14

Hall of Fame umpire Doug Harvey died Jan. 13 due to natural causes. He was 87.

5/7 SLIDES © Roger Jackson/Central Press/Getty Images

Dan Gurney, Jan. 14

American motorsport legend Dan Gurney, 86, died on Jan. 14  from complications related to pneumonia. Gurney was the first driver to win in Formula One, IndyCar and NASCAR.

6/7 SLIDES © Dean Hare/AP Photo

Keith Jackson, Jan. 12

Keith Jackson, the legendary broadcaster who spent 56 years calling college football, including 15 Rose Bowls, died at 89. His final game before he retired was the 2006 thriller between USC and Texas at the famed game in Pasadena.

7/7 SLIDES © Bob Child/AP Photo, File

Carmen Cozza, Jan. 4

Carmen Cozza, who coached Yale for 32 seasons and led the Bulldogs to 10 Ivy League titles, was inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002. He died at 87.

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Keith Jackson, legendary voice of college football, dead at 89
Sports Broadcaster Keith Jackson Dead at 89
Legendary sportscaster Keith Jackson dies at 89
Keith Jackson, the legendary voice of college football, dead at 89
Legendary sportscaster Keith Jackson dead at 89
College football announcer Keith Jackson dies at 89
Legendary college football announcer Keith Jackson dead at 89
Sportscaster Keith Jackson, voice of college football, dead at 89
Keith Jackson, a Legendary Voice of College Football, Dead at Age 89
Keith Jackson, 'voice of college football,' dies at 89