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Punter/Broadcaster Dave Jennings Remembered

Posted by Randy Lange on June 19, 2013 – 5:54 pm

Updated, 7:37 p.m. ET

A former Jets and Giants punter and broadcaster has left us. Dave Jennings, who was also one of the nicest guys on the field and in the radio booth, died early this morning after his decade-and-a-half-long battle with Parkinson’s disease. Dave was 61.

Jennings was a New Yorker and a New Jerseyan all the way. He was born in New York City, didn’t play football at Garden City High on Long Island, but he punted at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York just a short drive from Canada. And he lived in Upper Saddle River, N.J., until his passing.

He divided his time equally between the market’s two football teams. He began his playing career with the Giants in 1974 and went on to a Pro Bowl, All-Pro career with them through 1984. He went across the Hudson after the Giants released him and finished his playing career with three seasons as the Jets’ punter.

For his first 13 seasons he wore uniform No. 13, changing up only for his last season with the Jets when he wore No. 4.

Then when Jennings retired as a player, he didn’t go far. He became the Jets’ radio analyst in 1988 and held that position through 2001, working alongside regular play-by-play voices Marty Glickman, Paul Olden, Ian Eagle and Howard David. When he left the employ of the Green & White after ’01, he went back to Big Blue to work in the Giants’ radio booth from ’02-07.

All told, that’s 17 years with the Jets and 17 with the Giants.

Bob Wischusen and Marty Lyons replaced David and Jennings as the Jets’ radio team in 2002, but Bob reminded me that he actually did get to work some Jets games with the former punter, including his first game as a Jets fill-in “PXP” man.

“In fact, I owe Dave to a certain extent for me eventually landing the job,” Wischusen recalled. “When Howard David was the Jets play-by-play announcer, I was the host of the pregame and postgame shows. But I convinced WFAN program director Mark Chernoff to allow me to sit in for Howard when he had conflicts. Howard also called Celtics games and Monday Night Football for CBS Radio at the time, so he would miss a few Jets games each season.

“The first Jets game I ever called was a Monday night game versus the Dolphins. I was barely 26 years old. Omar Stoutmire intercepted Dan Marino and returned it for a TD, the Jets won a very exciting game, and overall the broadcast went really well.

“The part Dave Jennings played in all this was the encouragement he gave to a very inexperienced and nervous broadcaster who knew well a lot of people would be listening to see how I performed. Dave couldn’t have been more encouraging or made me feel more comfortable. He was beyond tremendous. Had it not been for that broadcast going as well as it did, who knows how many future opportunities I may have gotten to substitute for Howard? And had I not become the clear No. 2 guy under Howard, who’s to say I would have become the No. 1 guy after Howard moved on?  

“I was devastated to hear Dave passed,” Bobby said, “because he’s one of those people I was lucky enough to come across in my life who did something for me that I’d never be able to repay.”

As a player, Dave was credited with “inventing” or at least popularizing the concept of net punting average. I remember him talking about it in the Giants locker room one day.

“Nobody kept net average in those days, but it just made so much sense to me,” I remember Jennings’ conversation going. “It really wasn’t as important how far you kicked it as much as how close the other team was after returning it. I started doing some calculations, taking the gross average and subtracting the return yardage plus 20 yards for each touchback, and I sent my research to Seymour Siwoff at Elias Sports Bureau.”

Elias saw the wisdom of the Jennings approach and began charting punters’ net averages in 1976. It is now one of the key measures of punting excellence.

Then when he went to the booth, anyone who remembers him calling Jets or Giants games can recall his forté: complete knowledge of the NFL rules. So many times he sorted out confusing officiating decisions by citing chapter and verse of the rulebook. His training could be used by a number of analysts working the game today.

Jennings kept mum about his battle with Parkinson’s for a long time, but revealed in 2005 that he’d been diagnosed with a mild form of the disease in ’98. At that time, Ralph Vacchiano of the Daily News recalled today, Jennings said then that “Something’s taken hold of me and I’m going to beat it. … You don’t die from Parkinson’s, you die with it.”

Dave Jennings died with the disease today, but he left behind memories of footballs well kicked, plays well described, and some outstanding master-of-ceremonies charity work as well. We offer our condolences to his family and close friends, no matter whether they wear green or blue.

Jennings is survived by his sister, Susan Jennings. The family has asked that donations can be made in Dave’s memory to the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

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Posted in Randy Lange | 13 Comments »

13 Responses to “Punter/Broadcaster Dave Jennings Remembered”

  1. By IRA on Jun 19, 2013 | Reply

    Very sad day today after hearing this news. I learned so much about football listening to Dave and was lucky enough to get to know him. I wasn’t happy when he left to go do the Giants games. Funny story I was talking with Dave during pregame warmups before the Pats game in Foxboro the week after the Spike Game. I asked him what the mood was in the locker room and if they are ready to bounce back with a win. He told me no and if they won he would shave his mustache. I laughed and well he didn’t have to shave it. Condolences to his family. We lost a good man.

  2. By kw65fan on Jun 19, 2013 | Reply

    So sad to hear about Dave Jennings. Sympathy and prayers are with the family. Was such a good analyst on the radio. Most times I had radio on listening to the announcers instead of the people on TV. Gave great insight into the game with his analysis and so much knowledge of rules. Could have been a game official too.

  3. By Buschie on Jun 19, 2013 | Reply

    A terrible loss of a wonderful person.

  4. By RONBO on Jun 20, 2013 | Reply

    Randy, I had the pleasure of meeting Dave on several ossaccions and he was the real deal. A genuinelhy nice man and a true student of the game.For a punter you just dont hear that very often as they are a different breed. I always looked forward to the Jet pre-game and post game shows as Dave would always call em like he Saw em. Again, the real deal. I’m sure I can speak for all of us here on Randy’s Radar when I ask you to pass along our condloences and best wishes to his family.

  5. By scjoe on Jun 20, 2013 | Reply

    R.I.P. Dave Jennings and also to James (Tony Saprano) Gandolfini. Seems like we are paying condolences way to often lately.

  6. By Joe Loughran on Jun 20, 2013 | Reply

    I had the privledge of working with Dave on Jets radio broadcasts as a parabolic operator and field producer. He was a very humble man who understood and embraced his responsibility to get things right on our broadcasts. I was with him when he met Bill Russell, it blew his mind that Bill Russell knew who he was. I remember leaving RFK stadium in the early 90’s with Dave on a freight elevator, the operator extended a warm greeting to Dave which was returned by Dave calling the operator by his first name. I was amazed that Dave would know this guy’s name and as the years went on I came to learn that Dave remembered everyone’s name. In Dave’s world everyone was important and everyone’s name mattered. Dave was also a huge Allman Brothers fan.

  7. By Randy Lange on Jun 20, 2013 | Reply

    Joe, Ronbo and all others who’ve checked in regarding Dave Jennings, that’s the Dave I knew as well. A phenomenal man and a good friend who’ll be missed.

  8. By IRA on Jun 20, 2013 | Reply

    That’s right Dave loved the Brothers as do I and we had a long conversation about them throwing out Dickey Betts from the band. Ironically I just saw Betts at the City Winery two weeks ago and told my friend about how Dave was a huge fan . He also was a big Greatfull Dead fan too.
    Any chance you guys can post some old radio calls from Dave on this site so fans can get a chance to hear how good he was?

  9. By Randy Lange on Jun 20, 2013 | Reply

    Ira, interesting request. I’ll see if our multimedia department has some of those available.

  10. By Mike Jet Vet on Jun 20, 2013 | Reply

    if Jets and giants have or develop a ring of honor, Dave should be right there on top RIP Dave, god speed to him and his family

  11. By RONBO on Jun 21, 2013 | Reply

    Joe Loughran, thats an awsome post above, thank you so much for shareing it.S.C.Joe makes a good point above that its sad we are in one of those cycles where we are loosing people. I could not agree more about Dave’s ability to remember peoples names and how approachable he was. The first time I met him was in the parking lot at the Meadowlands. He walked past my wife & I as we were setting up our tailgateing stuff and he heard me tell her-hey,thats Dave Jennings” Dave stopped, walked over and shook our hands. We chatted for a few moments and he could not have been nicer.I met him years later at Newark airport waiting for our fleights and we chatted for over an hour.He amazingly remembered meeting my wife & I almost 10 years later.Amazing!

  12. By Joe Loughran on Jun 21, 2013 | Reply


    He was really irked that they threw Dickey out of the band and would never go see them until Dickey was on stage with them again, it never happened. Dave’s broadcasts would have been on WFAN or WABC, he also did sports on channel 2 as a fill in I believe

  13. By Jet fan Frank 1864 on Jun 24, 2013 | Reply

    Dave Jennings was an excellent punter and announcer, my prayer go to his family.

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