As the top play-by-play announcer of his generation, sportscaster and NFL placekicker Pat Summerall worked a record 16 Super Bowls. His deep, understated voice with a twinge of southern drawl was also the backdrop for 26 Masters Tournaments and 21 U.S. Opens, but he is most remembered as the smooth straight man to long-time partner John Madden's booming color commentary. Summerall, called the "voice of football" by Madden, received a number of awards for his broadcast work, including 1977 National Sportscaster of the Year and the 1994 Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award. In 1999 he was inducted into the American Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame. While Summerall was lesser known as an athlete, he spent 10 seasons in the National Football League and in 1958, participated in what would become known as the "Greatest Game Ever Played." After an illustrious career as a broadcaster and football player, Summerall died on April 16, 2013 at 82 years old.
George Allen Summerall was born in Lake City, FL, at the height of The Great Depression. After nearly being sent to an orphanage as a child, Summerall was ultimately raised by an aunt and uncle, who began calling him "Pat." Summerall joked that they wanted something more "Irish-sounding" to match their own son Mike's name. At Columbia High School in Lake City, Summerall was a four-sport athlete, playing football, basketball, baseball and tennis, earning All-State honors in football and basketball. The 6-foot-4 Summerall played football at the University of Arkansas from 1949 to 1951, playing defensive end, tight end and placekicker. The Detroit Lions drafted Summerall in the fourth round of the 1952 NFL Draft, but he broke his arm during the preseason and never played for the team. The following season Summerall was traded to the Chicago Cardinals, where he played defensive end and placekicker from 1953 to 1957. It was as a placekicker that Summerall gained the attention of the Giants, who acquired him in 1958.
Summerall first rose to prominence during a memorable 1958 campaign. In a snowy regular-season finale against the Cleveland Browns, he kicked a 49-yard field goal, ending the game and keeping the Giants' season alive. Vince Lombardi, then the offensive coordinator for New York, was reportedly against sending in Summerall to attempt the long kick in the inclement weather. When Summerall made the kick, Lombardi allegedly greeted him on the sideline saying, "You son of a b*tch, you can't kick it that far!" Two weeks later the Giants lost to the Baltimore Colts in overtime in the NFL Championship Game, a nationally broadcast contest that raised the profile of the NFL and is now known as the "Greatest Game Ever Played." Summerall's last professional game was the 1961 NFL Championship Game between the Giants and the Green Bay Packers, now coached by his old offensive coordinator, Lombardi; Summerall and the Giants were shut out 37-0. For his career, Summerall was successful on 100 of 212 field goal attempts and 257 of 265 PATs.
After his playing days ended, Summerall was hired by CBS to provide commentary for NFL games. He also participated in the network's coverage of tennis and the PGA Tour, including the Masters, from 1968-94. Paired alongside NFL color commentator Tom Brookshier, Summerall was the play-by-play announcer for three Super Bowls in the 1970s. In 1981 he was paired with Madden, beginning a wildly popular two-decade partnership that saw both men ascend to the top of the commentating profession. After the 1993 season, Summerall and Madden moved to Fox as the network's premier NFL announcing duo. Calling his last Super Bowl in 2002 (which was also his final game with Madden), Summerall was typically laconic in announcing the New England Patriots' last-second, 20-17 win over the heavily favored St. Louis Rams. "It's right down the pipe. Adam Vinatieri. No time on the clock. And the Patriots have won Super Bowl XXXVI. Unbelievable," Summerall said.
A hard drinker for many years, Summerall entered the Betty Ford Clinic in 1992 at the urging of Brookshier and NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. He would later speak publicly about his struggle with alcoholism: "I had no intention of quitting, I was having too good a time," Summerall said in a 2000 Associated Press story. "The prescribed stay at Betty Ford is 28 days. They kept me 33 because I was so angry at the people who did the intervention, the first five days didn't do me any good." After more than 20 years of sobriety and a liver transplant in 2004, Summerall died of cardiac arrest in his hometown of Dallas, TX, following surgery for a broken hip.
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Played 10 years in NFL as kicker for Detroit Lions, Chicago Cardinals, and New York Giants
As member of New York Giants, took part in NFL Championship popularly called "the greatest game ever played"
After retiring from football, hired by CBS to work as NFL color commentator
Made play-by-play commentator by CBS
Named National Sportscaster of the Year by The National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association
Made film acting debut in drama thriller "Black Sunday"
Teamed up with former Oakland Raiders coach John Madden to form one of TV's most well-known sports broadcasting partnerships
With Madden, hired by Fox network to cover "NFL on Fox"
Inducted into The National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame
Inducted into American Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame
Featured in ESPN documentary "The Greatest Game Ever Played"