Pro Bowl defensive back and pioneering broadcaster Irv Cross has died

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Reuben Frank
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Pro Bowl d-back and pioneering broadcaster Irv Cross has died originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Irv Cross, a two-time Pro Bowl cornerback with the Eagles before his groundbreaking broadcasting career, died Sunday, the Eagles announced on their website.

He was 81.

Cross was the Eagles’ 7th-round draft pick out of Northwestern in 1961 and spent six of his nine NFL seasons with the Eagles.

He became a starter midway through his rookie year and made the Pro Bowl in 1964 and 1965.

The Eagles traded Cross to the Rams after the 1965 season and he returned to Philadelphia for one more season with the Eagles as a player coach in 1969 before retiring. He remained with the team in 1970 as a full-time coach.

Cross had dabbled in local news broadcasting near the end of his playing days, and in 1971, he was hired as the first Black to work as a full-time analyst on national TV. He co-hosted The NFL Today on CBS Sports with Phyllis George and Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder from 1975 through 1989 and also called several other sports for CBS.

"I've been around all kinds of people, from every walk of life,” Musburger said in a story on the Eagles’ website. “I don't know that I could give you one person who was nicer than Irv Cross. He was a constant gentleman.”

Cross went into athletic administration after his broadcasting career and served as athletic director at Idaho State in Pocatello, Idaho, and Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., before retiring in 2005. He was active in Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Central Minnesota and other charities after he left Macalester.

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

Two years ago, Cross told The Inquirer he had been diagnosed with cognitive dementia and said he planned to donate this brain to Northeastern University in Boston to test for CTE.

In 2009, Cross was given the Pete Rozelle Award, awarded annually by the Pro Football Hall of Fame to an NFL broadcaster for meritorious contributions to the game.

Cross had 16 interceptions in 83 games with the Eagles and 22 career INTs, including his years with the Rams. His 94-yard INT return touchdown off Steelers QB Terry Nofsinger in 1964 remains the 6th-longest in Eagles history.

Cross also averaged 26.6 yards on 28 career kickoff returns, 3rd-highest in franchise history behind Josh Huff and Steve Van Buren.

Cross is survived by his wife, Liz, and four children, Susan, Lisa, Matthew, and Sarah.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations are sent to Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation or Concussion Legacy Foundation.