Keith Jackson died last night. He was 89 years old and, if you ask around, probably the most well-known college football broadcaster of all time. He hadn’t called a game on TV since the Rose Bowl featuring Texas and USC on January 4, 2006, which coincidentally turned out to be one of the great games of all time. Even with over twelve years absent from the broadcast booth, he was never really absent from college football’s collective heart.
We say things because he said things. His list of phrases and Jacksonisms will always be imitated, never duplicated, because he alone could put the syrupy deep charm that only a young boy from Carrollton, Georgia could cultivate. “Whoa Nellie”, “Hold the phone”, “Fumblllllllllle”, and many others were staples on a college football Saturday.
He’s the Humphrey Bogart of his realm.
His calling Michigan’s stadium “The Big House”is Bogie’s “We’ll always have Paris”, and “The Grandaddy of ‘em all” is akin to “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid”.
And he had a whale of a time calling some of Pat Dye’s early successes. No disrespect to Jim Fyffe, but many more people heard Jackson’s calls of the 1982, 1983, and 1986 Iron Bowls.
“Fourth and goal, and a half a yard...”
“Randy Campbell gives to Bo Jackson, Jackson’s on his way... Goodbye! In your face! 71 yards for Bo Jackson!”
“They run a reverse, it’s Lawyer Tillman carrying the ball — GOOD CUT, TOUCHDOWN, AUBURN!”
Most announcers aren’t nearly that smooth anymore. He’s sitting on his porch describing the kids playing in the yard. It’s just so natural. And, being born just 75 miles from Auburn, it’s only appropriate that Auburn got a few good moments out of Keith Jackson. I’ll miss him, just as the rest of the college football world will do. Most national announcers wouldn’t warrant recognition like this, but Jackson was a special talent and one that had a connection to the Tigers as well. He had a connection to everyone, and that’s what made him who he was.