Irv Cross, a former NFL cornerback and broadcaster for CBS Sports, passed away Sunday morning near his home in Roseville, Minnesota. He was 81 years old. He is survived by his wife, Liz; four children, Susan, Lisa, Matthew, and Sarah; grandson Aiden; brothers Raymond, Teal, and Sam; sisters Joan, Jackie, Julia, Pat, and Gwen; and many nieces, nephews, cousins, and in-laws.
Born in Hammond, Indiana, in 1939, Cross was the eighth of 15 children in his family. He was a three-sport athlete in high school — playing football, basketball, and track and field — and he became the first member of his family to attend college. He headed to Northwestern and played both wide receiver and cornerback.
Cross later became a seventh-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1961. He spent six seasons with the team as a cornerback and earned Pro Bowl honors in consecutive seasons. The Eagles traded Cross to the Rams after the 1965 season, and he finished out his NFL career in California.
Following his playing career, Cross returned to the Eagles in 1969 as a defensive backs coach. He remained in the role for the 1970 season but later made a career change. Cross joined CBS Sports in 1971 as an analyst for several sports. This move led to the former cornerback making history.
Four years after joining CBS Sports, Cross partnered with Brent Musburger, Phyllis George, and Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder for a live pregame show. He became the first Black network sports show anchor while George became the first woman in the role. THE NFL TODAY became the first-ever live pregame show and served as a template for other future properties.
"All of us at CBS Sports are saddened by the news of Irv Cross' passing," CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said in a statement. "Irv was a pioneer who made significant contributions to the storied history and tradition of CBS Sports and, along with Phyllis George and Brent Musburger, set the standard for NFL pregame shows with THE NFL TODAY. He was a true gentleman and a trailblazer in the sports television industry and will be remembered for his accomplishments and the paths he paved for those who followed."
Cross was on THE NFL TODAY for 14 years. He ultimately spent 23 years total with CBS Sports and was the first Black recipient of the Pete Rozelle Award (2009). He is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Disclosure: PopCulture is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.