December 17, 2018

WSU and college football legend Keith Jackson dies at 89

14 January 2018, 12:52 | Pamela Mathis

Jackson worked for ABC Sports for 50 years. More

Jackson worked for ABC Sports for 50 years. More

In 1964, he moved to ABC Radio West as sports director and continued freelance work with ABC Sports before becoming full-time in 1966. His folksy language and signature phrases like 'Whoa, Nelly!' gave his game calls a familiar feel. Whether it was another Ohio State-Michigan game in November or The Granddaddy of Them All, you knew it would be better with Jackson on the call.

Jackson retired in 2006, famously saying he "didn't want to die in a parking lot". Of course, Jackson would retire calling one of the greatest games and plays in college football history as Vince Young scampered into the end zone on fourth-and-five from the 9-yard line to score the go-ahead touchdown with only eight seconds left to play.

Over his 40 year ABC career, Jackson became known as the preeminent play-by-play voice of the biggest college football games over the years. Keith was a true gentleman and memorable presence.

Jackson leaves behind his wife Turi Ann, three grown children (Melanie, Lindsey, Christopher), and three grandchildren (Ian, Holly, Spencer).

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Jackson's final call was the 2006 Rose Bowl between Texas and USC.

He had first announced his retirement in 1998 but returned to work.

"It's still fun to see new generations enjoy the game", the New York Times quotes him as once saying. He said that on-air mistakes had started to creep up on him so it was time to stop. He called Major League Baseball playoffs, the National Basketball Association, the Olympics and even the old "Superstars", the original trashsport.

He covered 10 Winter and Summer Olympics games, including the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. "He did it for a long, long time". "He'd do something or drop something or whatever, and oftentimes you'd hear him say, "Whoa, Nellie, ' that kind of stuff, and that kind of stuck to the scruffy little kid following him around,"' Jackson said in a 2013 appearance on Fox Sports" "Fox College Saturday". Never, never shining the light on himself. His voice had just enough of the South in it as a native Georgian to speak college football's language, but not so much that it turned off the rest of us. Jackson received the Amos Alonzo Stagg Award from the American Football Coaches Association in 1993, the first sportscaster to ever receive the award. He was also a fixture on ABC's Wide World of Sports. Every step of the way, he shared his knowledge and his friendship.

But he's most known for being the soundtrack to college football. As former quarterback Bob Griese, Jackson's colour commentator for many years, recalled it: "At our first game, he said to me, 'All right, what do you want to do?' I said: 'You're the guy who's been here". "I'll never forget when the game was over, Keith's hand, and I didn't know whose hand it was, but it came around the corner extension into the radio booth and he offered me a vodka after the game to celebrate what we had been through".

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