Sportscaster Keith Jackson, voice of college football, dead at 89

From Reuters - January 13, 2018

(Reuters) - Sportscaster Keith Jackson, who brought a folksy, excitable demeanor and down-home exclamations such as Whoa, Nellie! to 40 seasons of play-by-play calling as the authoritative voice of college football for ABC Sports, died at age 89, his employer ABC reported on Saturday.

The legendary sportscaster died late on Friday surrounded by family.

For generations of fans, Keith Jackson was college football, said Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Co, which owns ABC.

When you heard his voice, you knew it was a big game. Keith was a true gentleman and a memorable presence. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Turi Ann, and his family, Iger said.

Jacksons work for ABC covered a wide range of sports and included 10 Olympics and 11 World Series but college football was his domain. At his peak, he was associated with the sport almost as strongly as any player or coach.

He presided over games with a rumbling baritone, a distinctive speaking rhythm, a trace of a Southern accent and a string of colloquialisms that made a Keith Jackson broadcast sound like no other.

In Jackson-speak, a talented player was a hoss and an even more talented player was a hoss and a half. Hulking offensive linemen were the big uglies down in the trenches.

He would describe an especially rough game as a slobber knocker in which the players were rockin and a-sockin and a-whackin and a-crackin. He referred to the prestigious Rose Bowl game as the granddaddy of them all and when a player dropped the ball, Jackson would roar, Fum-buuuul!

The phrase he was most associated with - and the one used by anyone who ever did a Keith Jackson impersonation - was Whoa, Nellie! Jackson said he did not know why the exclamation was so closely tied to him.

I never did use it that much, just a couple times ..., he said in an interview with the website I dont know how that thing got hung on me. The media likes to hang things on you and that was my bad luck, I guess.

Some said Dick Lane, a Los Angeles sports broadcaster, was the original source of Whoa, Nellie but Jackson told the Los Angeles Times in 2013 that he borrowed it from his great-grandfather.

Jacksons style evolved from advice he was once given - never be afraid to turn a phrase.


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