By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Former Los Angeles Rams cornerback Irv Cross, who became a sportscasting pioneer after retiring from the NFL and spent 23 years with CBS, has died at age 81.

Cross died Sunday morning near his home in Roseville, Minnesota, the Philadelphia Eagles reported on their website.

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The former football player played for the Rams from 1966 through 1968 after spending the first five years of his career with the Philadelphia Eagles.

After retiring from the NFL  Cross was hired by CBS Sports as a game analyst in 1971. He worked on the network’s NFL Monday, pregame show, becoming the first Black network sports anchor.

His role grew to include coverage of other sports such as track and field and gymnastics for the weekly show CBS Sports Spectacular, the Eagles said. He spent 23 years with CBS, including 14 on its flagship Sunday NFL show.

“All of us at CBS Sports are saddened by the news of Irv Cross’ passing,” said CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus. “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.”

Musberger shared a tribute to his friend on Twitter saying, “Irv was one of the finest gentleman I’ve been with. … No one ever had a bad thing to say about Irv. He led the way for African Americans to host NFL and other sports shows. Rest in peace my friend.”

Cross left CBS in 1994. “He continued to make a difference in several roles throughout the rest of his life, including, the athletic director at Idaho State, the athletic director at Macalester College, the executive director of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Central Minnesota, and the executive director of an organization called Love Inc., a community outreach group,” the team said.

In 2009, Cross became the first Black broadcaster to win the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award.

A Hammond, Indiana, native, Cross was drafted by the Eagles in the seventh round in 1961 and made the Pro Bowl in 1964 and 1965.

He finished his career with 22 interceptions and eight forced fumbles in 125 games — missing only one game over nine NFL seasons.

Cross is survived by his wife, Liz; four children, Susan, Lisa, Matthew, and Sarah; grandson Aiden; brothers Raymond, Teal, and Sam;

UNSPECIFIED – CIRCA 1986: CBS NFL Today Show member Irv Cross during an NFL Football Game circa 1986. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

sisters Joan, Jackie, Julia, Pat, and Gwen; and many nieces, nephews, cousins, and in-laws.

The Eagles said, in lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation or the Concussion Legacy Foundation.

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(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)