Former Rams Player and Broadcast Pioneer Irv Cross Dies at 81

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Former Los Angeles Rams cornerback Irv Cross -- who after retiring from the NFL became a sportscasting pioneer as the first Black to work as an anchor on national sports broadcasts, has died at age 81.

Cross, who played for the Rams from 1966 through 1968 after spending the first five years of his career with the Philadelphia Eagles, died Sunday morning near his home in Roseville, Minnesota, the Eagles reported on their website.

After retiring from the NFL following a 1969 season also played with the Eagles, Cross joined CBS in 1971. He worked on the network's ''NFL Today,'' pregame show, becoming the first Black network sports anchor. He spent 23 years with CBS, including 14 on its flagship Sunday NFL show.

“All of us at CBS Sports are saddened by the news of Irv Cross' passing,'' Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports, said on Twitter.

“Irv was a pioneer who made significant contributions to the storied history and tradition of CBS Sports and, along with Phyllis George and Brent Musberger, 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.''

Musberger, meanwhile, said on Twitter: “Irv was one of the finest gentleman I've been with. ... No one ever had a bad thing to say about Irv. He led the way for African Americans to host NFL and other sports shows. Rest in peace my friend.''

Cross left CBS in 1994. Later, he served as athletic director at Idaho State and Minnesota's Macalester College.

In 2009, Cross became the first Black broadcaster to win the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award.

A Hammond, Indiana, native, Cross was drafted by the Eagles in the seventh round in 1961 and made the Pro Bowl in 1964 and 1965.

He finished his career with 22 interceptions and eight forced fumbles in 125 games -- missing only one game over nine NFL seasons.

His wife, Liz, and four children are among his survivors, the Eagles said.

The team also said that, in lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Alzheimer's Research and Prevention Foundation or the Concussion Legacy Foundation.

Photo: Getty Images

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