Irv Cross, Northwestern alumnus, former Philadelphia Eagles cornerback and trailblazing NFL studio analyst, dies at 81

Irv Cross photographed for The Daily on October 9, 1959. Cross and No. 2 Northwestern edged Minnesota 6-0 the next day.

(The Daily Northwestern Archives)

Irv Cross photographed for The Daily on October 9, 1959. Cross and No. 2 Northwestern edged Minnesota 6-0 the next day.

Patrick Andres, Assistant Sports Editor


Irv Cross, a three-year football letterman at Northwestern who went on to play with the Philadelphia Eagles and break barriers as a Black analyst, died Sunday in Roseville, Minnesota. He was 81.

Cross, the eighth of 15 children, was born, raised and educated in Hammond, Indiana, where he played three sports in high school. His skills drew the attention of Wildcats coach Ara Parseghian, who recruited Cross as part of his initial class after being hired away from Miami-Ohio.

At NU, Cross played three years at wide receiver and defensive back as the Cats amassed their first streak of three consecutive winning seasons since 1928-31. On October 24, 1959, he memorably caught a 78-yard touchdown pass from quarterback John Talley in No. 2 NU’s 30-24 win over Notre Dame, helping the Cats snap an eight-game losing streak against the Fighting Irish that dated to 1941.

Cross graduated from the School of Education and Social Policy in 1961, and was drafted by both the NFL’s Eagles and the American Football League’s New York Titans (the future Jets). He signed with the former, and went on to reach the Pro Bowl in 1964 and 1965 as a cornerback and collect 22 interceptions in nine seasons split between Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Rams.

Two years after his playing career ended, in 1971, Cross was hired by CBS Sports. He became the first Black anchor of a sports show on a major network when he moved over to “The NFL Today” in 1975. There, he formed an iconic quartet with Phyllis George, a pioneer for women on sports television who died in May 2020, gambling analyst Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder and anchor Brent Musburger, a Medill alumnus who Cross had befriended in college. He remained at CBS until 1994, after which he served in several administrative and charitable positions and released a memoir in 2017.

Cross is survived by his wife, Liz, his daughters, Susan, Lisa and Sandra, his son, Matthew, a grandson, five sisters and three brothers.

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