1928 – Keith Jackson (born October 18,, in Roopville, Georgia) is a former American sportscaster, known for his long career with ABC Sports television, his coverage of college football as well as his style of folksy, down-to-earth commentary and deep voice.
1952 – Jackson began his career as a broadcaster at Washington State, when he called a radio game between Stanford and Washington State. He then worked for KOMO-TV and Radio, an ABC affiliate in Seattle, from 1954 for the next ten years as co-anchor for their first news team (first co-anchor news team on the West Coast), covering Seafair hydroplane races, minor league Seattle Rainiers baseball games, and University of Washington Huskies football games.
1962 – He joined ABC Sports. He was full time in 1964 as a radio news correspondent and later became sports director of ABC Radio West.
1960s – Jackson covered American Football League games.
1970 – he was chosen to be the first play-by-play announcer on Monday Night Football covering the NFL, but he remained in that capacity only for the program’s first season. Frank Gifford was ABC’s initial target but could not get out of his CBS contract until after the 1970 season. In 1971, however, Gifford landed the job.
1960s-70s – Jackson was a regular part of ABC’s popular Wide World of Sports (WWOS), covering both popular sports and obscure events like wrist wrestling. For WWOS he covered Evel Knievel’s successful jump at Exhibition Stadium, in Toronto, Canada, on August 20, 1974; as well as his spectacular May 31, 1975 crash while attempting to jump over thirteen double decker Routemaster buses at London’s Wembley Stadium.
1960s-1990s – In his many years covering college football, Jackson has been paired with a wide variety of color commentators, including former Arkansas coach and athletic director Frank Broyles (1978-1986) and pro football legend Bob Griese (1987-1999). For many years, he was assigned by ABC to the primary national game of the week. His quirky expressions such as “Whoa, Nellie!” and “Fum-BLE!” are often the subject of comedic imitation. Though he greatly popularized it, Jackson notes that he learned the term “Whoa, Nellie” from earlier television announcer Dick Lane. He has often referred to offensive and defensive line players as the Big Uglies. Jackson is also credited with coining the nickname for Michigan Stadium, The Big House. In the season before his first retirement, during what was thought to be his final game at The Big House, the Michigan Marching Band’s halftime show concluded by spelling out “Thanks Keith” across the field, the 112,019 fans turned toward the press box, stood up and cheered for the commentator, and as a part of the halftime event former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler presented Jackson with a jersey with “The Big House” across the front and a Michigan football helmet.
1990s – Jackson recorded videos for the centennial of the Alabama Crimson Tide.
2006 – Jackson became the voice behind the Nebraska Cornhuskers’ “Tunnel Walk” video. This video is played before every home game at Memorial Stadium.
1999, the National Football Foundation awarded Jackson the Gold Medal Award, its highest honor. The same year he was inducted into Rose Bowl Hall of Fame. The Edward R. Murrow School of Communication at Washington State University awarded their alumnus with the Murrow Award for top leaders in the communication industry in 1999; Jackson was a charter member of the WSU Foundation, founded in 1979, provided scholarship money to the Murrow School and chaired the fund-raising drive for the school’s alumni center. On April 24, 1995, he was inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame, having won its National Sportscaster of the Year five successive times. The American Football Coaches Association awarded him its Amos Alonzo Stagg Award in 1993 as an individual “whose services have been outstanding in the advancement of the best interests of football.” He was the first sports announcer to receiver the Stagg award. Longtime Penn State Head Coach Joe Paterno said of Jackson: “I don’t think you could say that there is any one person who is not a coach, athletic director or administrator who has done more for college football than Keith Jackson”. Michigan Head Coach Lloyd Carr described Jackson as “a symbol of all the good things in college football”.
1998-2006 – Jackson announced his first retirement from college football at the end of the 1998 season and his intention to live full time at his home in California. Choosing the 1999 National Championship at the Fiesta Bowl between Tennessee and Florida State as his last broadcast, he concluded the program by stating “Tennessee 23, Florida State 16. And so it is done. I say goodbye to all of you. God bless and good night.”He rescinded this decision the following fall and began to do a more limited schedule of games, teamed with Dan Fouts, almost exclusively sticking to venues on the West Coast, closer to his home in British Columbia. One of the notable exceptions was the 2003 Michigan-Ohio State game, the 100th meeting between the two archrivals. He strongly hinted that he was interested in retiring for good after the 2005 season, telling The New York Times, that he was feeling his age after 53 seasons. ABC tried to lure Jackson to stay, but he made up his mind. Jackson decided to retire for good on April 27, 2006.
Jackson has had a minor career as an actor, often either playing himself (as on an episode of Coach) or a sportscaster like himself, as in The Fortune Cookie (1966). He has also appeared in and narrated several sports documentaries. His play-by-play of the 1977 World Series is used in the background of the Spike Lee film, Summer of Sam (1999). In 2007, he appeared in clips and voice on the ESPN original series, The Bronx Is Burning, featuring clips from ABC’s Monday Night Baseball, and ABC Sports coverage of the 1977 World Series.
He and his wife Turi Ann, have three grown children and homes in the Los Angeles, California area and Pender Harbour, British Columbia, Canada.
Jackson has appeared in numerous commercials, especially in the latter stages of his career. He once parodied his broadcast persona for a Bud Light beer commercial, in which he played the officiating minister at a wedding, finishing with his famous line, “Whoa, Nellie!” He also appeared in commercials for Shoney’s, a chain of family-style restaurants well-known in the Southeast, especially in his native Georgia. Most recently, Jackson has appeared in “The Legend of Gatorade” ads, which he humorously alluded to during his live coverage of the 2006 Rose Bowl. In 2006, he also was shown in a commercial for Ice Breakers’ Ice Cubes with Hilary Duff, Haylie Duff, and Joey Lawrence, again contributing his famous “Whoa, Nellie!”