Football has had several candidates for the Voice of God. John Facenda held that title, but Harry Kalas gave Facenda a run for his money, and so did Pat Summerall.
All three voices have been silenced in recent years, most recently Summerall, who died today near his longtime home in Southlake, Texas.
Summerall, 82, was a fine placekicker for the Giants back in the Fifties, when kickers often struggled with the 50% mark on their field goals. And he’ll forever be remembered for his basso voice and authoritative delivery and for his work alongside two partners in the pantheon of NFL broadcasting teams — Tom Brookshier, with whom he worked from 1974-80 on CBS, and of course Pro Football Hall of Famer John Madden from ’81-93 on CBS and then from 1994-2002 on Fox.
“I was so lucky I got to work with Pat,” Madden told the Dallas Morning News. “He was so easy to work with. He knew how to use words. For a guy like myself who rambles on and on and doesn’t always make sense, he was sent from heaven.”
George Allen Summerall was born in central Florida in 1930 and was raised by an aunt and uncle, who took to calling him Pat. Once he turned professional, he would always joke that only one person ever called him George again, “and that was on rare occasion.” That person: Jim Kensil, the late former Jets team president and aide to former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle.
As a Dallas resident who specialized in NFC games, Summerall didn’t get to call many Jets games, just 10 in the regular season and one in the preseason. His first actually was as a three-men-in-the-booth color analyst alongside Brent Musburger, with Jack Whitaker handling the play-by-play, in the Jets’ 28-20 loss to Atlanta in 1973.
His first Jets game as the play-by-play man was the 1975 season finale, a 31-21 loss to the Cowboys. He called Jets victories over Tampa Bay in 1982, the L.A. Rams in ’83, and New Orleans in ’86.
Summerall’s last regular-season Jets game was the 35-30 loss to Philadelphia in 1993, the game that turned on Eagles CB Eric Allen’s 94-yard return of a Boomer Esiason interception with 8:43 to play.
And the last Jets game of any kind that he worked was the Jets’ 2004 preseason win at Indianapolis, when he filled in for Mike Patrick on ESPN’s broadcast of that game.
We extend our condolences to the Summerall family for their loss, and to fans of the NFL, the Cotton Bowl, the Masters and other sporting events who retain memories of the magic that still lingers in the very voice that Pat Summerall brought to the booth.
Tags: Harry Kallas, Jim Kensil, John Facenda, John Madden, Pat Summerall, Tom Brookshier
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