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January 13, 2018

Keith Jackson Dies: College Football Voice Known For “Whoa, Nellie” Was 89

Keith Jackson, the voice of college football for four decades, died Friday night. He was 89. ESPN, the sister Disney company to ABC where Jackson spent much of his career, confirmed the death with his family.

Jackson was the lead broadcaster on ABC-TV’s college football broadcasting for more than 40 years. He retired with the 2006 Rose Bowl, where quarterback Vince Jackson led his Longhorns to the national championship over USC. Some call it the greatest college football game ever.

His signature phrase for a big moment, “Whoa, Nellie!”  was repeated to him ad infinitum in restaurants and other public places by fans throughout his career. Jackson later claimed that his use of the phrase wasn’t as prevalent as some remembered, and that its popularity lingered because of impersonators spreading it.

“This ‘Whoa, Nellie!’ thing is overrated,” he said on more than one occasion. “There were all kinds of stories going around. People said I had a mule in Georgia named Nellie. Well, we had a mule in Georgia, but her name was Pearl.”

Jackson was born Oct. 18, 1928, in Carrollton, Ga., a small town near the Georgia-Alabama border.

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