A look at iconic announcers in NFL history
While fans of some sports all have their favorite local announcers, the NFL has been much more of a shared viewing experience.
With all games being shown on national networks rather than solely on local channels, the most memorable voices of football are universal.
There were the early voices of the game such as Curt Gowdy and Ray Scott; the unique combination of Howard Cosell, Don Meredith and Frank Gifford in prime time; to years of Pat Summerall’s brevity punctuated by John Madden’s boisterous interjections.
Everyone has a style they prefer, from Tony Romo’s role as Nostradamus to the exuberance of Gus Johnson and Kevin Harlan to the understated style of men such as Summerall and Scott.
Here’s a look at some of the iconic voices of the NFL:
PLAY BY PLAY
PAT SUMMERALL: Summerall transitioned from a successful playing career to the booth in the 1960s and became the voice of the NFL. He started off as an analyst and was part of the first Super Bowl broadcast. He shifted to a play-by-play role in 1974 at CBS and that’s where he really shined. With an economy of words and understated persona, he helped analysts Madden and Tom Brookshier shine. A call of a big TD for Summerall could be as simple as “Montana … Rice … Touchdown.” He announced a record 16 Super Bowls on network television and contributed to 10 on the radio as well.
AL MICHAELS: Michaels has been a prime-time fixture in the NFL for decades as the voice of “Monday Night Football” on ABC for 20 years and is now entering his 14th season calling Sunday night games on NBC. Michaels was viewed as so important to the premier prime-time package that NBC traded the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Walt Disney’s precursor to Mickey Mouse, to Disney in order to get the rights for Michaels to call Sunday night games in 2006. Michaels has called 10 Super Bowls and is a play-by-play announcer willing to interject his opinions into the broadcast when needed, as well as frequent thinly veiled gambling references to point spreads and over/unders.
DICK ENBERG: Enberg replaced Curt Gowdy as the lead announcer for NBC’s coverage of the NFL in 1979 and spent more than three decades calling NFL games there and at CBS. Known for his exclamation “Oh my!” that was peppered throughout his broadcasts, Enberg called eight Super Bowls at NBC and was the pregame host for another. He worked with various analysts such as Merlin Olsen, Bob Trumpy, Phil Simms and Paul Maguire. Enberg called some of the most memorable games, from John Elway’s “Drive” to the AFC championship in January 1987 to Joe Montana’s comeback win over Cincinnati in the Super Bowl two years later to back-to-back titles by the Cowboys in the early 1990s.
CURT GOWDY: A versatile announcer nicknamed the Cowboy who started off as Mel Allen’s partner on Yankees radio broadcasts, Gowdy was one of the original voices of the AFL on ABC when the league started in 1960. He moved on to NBC in 1965 and was in the booth for some of the most memorable games in pro football history. He called the first Super Bowl for NBC; the “Heidi” game in 1968; Joe Namath’s guarantee in Super Bowl 3; and the Immaculate Reception. ABC wanted to hire Gowdy as the original voice of “Monday Night Football,” but NBC wouldn’t let him out of his contract. His final Super Bowl broadcast came when Pittsburgh beat Dallas for the title following the 1978 season before he was traded to CBS to create an opening for Enberg to become the lead voice of the NFL on NBC. Gowdy had few catch phrases but was known for colorful descriptions.
RAY SCOTT: Scott began calling Packers games in the 1950s and was the voice of the Lombardi dynasty of the 1960s, when CBS had crews dedicated to specific teams until 1968. With his understated style that featured calls like, “Starr … Dowler … Touchdown, Green Bay,” Scott was on the microphone for some of the NFL’s biggest games, including the Ice Bowl in 1967 and the first two Super Bowls. Scott called four Super Bowls and seven NFC or NFL title games.
JACK BUCK: Best known for his work in baseball calling St. Louis Cardinals games, Buck also had a big impact in football. He called the 1962 AFL title game that went double overtime and was one of the top announcers at CBS for more than a decade, calling the Ice Bowl, and the 1970 Super Bowl. He also was a staple on radio, calling 17 Super Bowls for CBS radio as well as “Monday Night Football” games for many years. Buck’s son, Joe, also went on to have a successful announcing career and has called six Super Bowls as the lead play-by-play man at Fox.