One would be remiss to mention the New York Giants, (hell. football. No, sports period,) without mentioning Frank Gifford. A man bursting with more energy than most teams, Gifford’s love for the game was absolutely infectious.
It's hard to imagine a time when football did not enjoy such immense popularity, but in the early fifties, such was the case. The hysteria surrounding pro-football was almost non-existent as most Americans cited Major League Baseball and college football as their favorite sports. In 1952, a six-foot one California native would march onto the field. Donning the trademark dark blue Giants uniform, this man would help to foster America’s obsession with pro football.
Name one running back who could amass fourteen touch-down passes? That’s more than any non-QB in the history of the sport.
Gifford’s talents brought the Giants to seven Pro-bowls and three NFL championship games. He was also named to all-NFL first team four times. During 1956 championship game, the Giants would dominate the Chicago Bears, resulting in a 47-7 final score. Gifford was given the league’s most valuable player award for his contributions.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck in 1960, when Gifford received a devastating tackle that would interrupt his career. With the pig-skin in hand, Gifford darted down a field of Philadelphia Eagles, when out of nowhere he collided with the Eagles’ Chuck Bednarik. Gifford was rendered unconscious suffering a “deep brain concussion”. He was released from the hospital several days later, and in 1961, announced his retirement.
But if you really thought that a man as a resilient as Gifford would allow something like this to keep him away from the game, then you haven’t been paying attention. Eighteen months after his injury, Gifford returned to drive his footprints into the turf, shocking the world.
This time he would play a new position--wide receiver. Now, one would only expect the man to be a bit rusty upon his return to the field. However, much to the frustration of his opponents, Gifford once again proved that he was a force to be reckoned with. Over the next three years, Gifford and the Giants would make two more appearances to the NFL championship game. Further, in 1963, Gifford made one more visit to the Pro-bowl before retiring in 1964.
Between 1971 and 1998, Gifford would entertain America, using his voice and expertise as a broadcaster, analyst and pre-game host for Monday Night Football.
In 1976, Gifford was inducted into Football’s hall of fame.
Gifford leaves behind his wife Kathie Lee, their son and daughter and two sons and a daughter from Gifford’s first marriage.
President of the New York Giants, John Mara described Gifford as the “ultimate Giant”, and “a revered older brother”. His wife Kathie Lee Gifford, described him as her “confidant, lover, therapist, parenting partner and best friend.”
America remembers Frank Gifford as one of the greatest football players of all time, and more importantly a show of the resiliency and passion that we were all born to manifest.
Here’s to you, Frank!