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Former Northwestern football player and CBS Sports analyst Irv Cross dead at 81

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He’s hailed as a pioneer in the sports television industry.

USA Today

Irv Cross, 81, died in his home near Roseville, Minnesota, late Sunday night. The cause of death has not yet been provided.

The former Pro Bowl defensive back became the first Black man to work full-time as a sports analyst on national television.

Cross was a Northwestern alum who played football as both a wide receiver and defensive back under head coach Ara Parseghian from 1958 to 1960. He was a team captain who also participated in track and field and was named as the University’s male athlete of the year as a senior. He graduated from the School of Education in 1961 before being selected by the Philadelphia Eagles with the 98th pick in that year’s NFL Draft.

Cross played nine seasons in the NFL as a defensive back during two stints with the Eagles and a three-season tenure with the Los Angeles Rams. He earned two Pro Bowl selections.

Following his retirement in 1969, Cross covered several sports before moving to CBS in 1971 to join the “The NFL Today” pregame show with Brent Musberger and Phyllis George. He worked on the show and covered other sports until 1994. He later served as the Athletic Director at Idaho State University and then Macalester College.

In 2009, Cross won the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award, which seeks to honor those who have made “longtime exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football.” He was the first ever Black recipient of the annual honor.