Former football star, broadcaster, Frank Gifford dead at 84

Sun Aug 9, 2015 5:35pm EDT
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By Bill Trott

(Reuters) - Frank Gifford, a star on the football field for the New York Giants and later a star in the broadcasting booth with the "Monday Night Football" team that helped popularize the NFL, died on Sunday at age 84, his family said.

Gifford, who was married to TV talk show host Kathie Lee Gifford, died suddenly of natural causes at his Connecticut home, his family said in the statement released to NBC.

"Deeply grateful to all 4 ur outpouring of grace," Kathie Lee Gifford tweeted, adding his family was "finding comfort in knowing where Frank is."

One of the National Football League's best and most versatile players in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Gifford's skill, good looks and gracious manner made him an all-around celebrity in New York City.

Gifford was a key player for the Giants during their 23-17 loss to the Baltimore Colts in the 1958 NFL title game, which was decided in the league's first sudden-death overtime period.

It came to be known as "the greatest game ever played" and sports historians say its dramatic finish and national TV coverage set football on a path to become the most popular sport in the United States and a multibillion-dollar industry.

Gifford, who played mostly as a running back and wide receiver, led the Giants to the NFL championship in 1956 while winning the league's most valuable player award, and helped take them to the title game in five other seasons.

Gifford's career was interrupted in 1960 in one of the most notorious plays in NFL history, a brutal but legal hit by Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Chuck Bednarik that left Gifford unconscious. Gifford retired from playing but returned in 1962 and played three more years.   Continued...

Michael Strahan (center) receives his NFL Hall of Fame ring from Harry Carson (R) and Frank Gifford (L) during half time ceremony at MetLife Stadium in this file photo taken on November 3, 2014. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports