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Tom Brookshier's Career 'Evidently' Defined by Famous Interview

Jan 30, 2010 – 5:10 PM
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Dave Goldberg

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Tom BrookshierTom Brookshier, who died Friday night at the age of 78, made two Pro Bowls as a cornerback for the Philadelphia Eagles, played on a title-winning Philadelphia team and was the lead commentator on CBS' NFL games for almost two decades.

His career, however, can be remembered by one word:


And he didn't even utter it.

It came from Duane Thomas, Dallas' star running back, after Thomas was voted the Most Valuable Player in the 1972 Super Bowl, a 24-3 win by the Cowboys over Miami. Thomas had been silent all week, making him, naturally, the main subject of pregame hype. After his performance, an obviously nervous Brookshier spent more than a minute standing next to Thomas, extolling his speed and building up to a simple question that ended with the question: "Are you that fast?''

"Evidently,'' Thomas replied.

Brookshier, who played at Colorado, was a 10th round draft choice of the Eagles in 1953 and had eight interceptions as a rookie. He started for Philadelphia's 1960 champions -- the last Eagles team to win an NFL title -- and retired after the 1961 season after a severe leg fracture. His No. 40 is one of seven permanently retired by the Eagles.

"He might of been the toughest defensive back of our era,'' said his former teammate, Chuck Bednarik. "He was a hitter.''

He also was a natural broadcaster.

He began at WCAU in Philadelphia and became the station's sports director. In 1965, he earned a job as an NFL color man for CBS and spent much of the 1960s and '70s as the lead commentator, most often teamed with Pat Summerall. He was recognized well enough that he appeared as himself in the movie Black Sunday, the movie of a terrorist attack on the Super Bowl.

In 1981, he switched to play-by-play, and in 1983 he was suspended by CBS after what was construed by Neal Pilson, then the president of CBS sports, as a racially-tinged remark. It came during a Saints-Eagles game following a promotion for a basketball game involving the University of Louisville when he remarked that the players had "a collective IQ of about 40.''

He was angered over CBS' reaction and was invited by Louisville to be the speaker at the team's kickoff luncheon in 1984. He remained as a broadcaster for CBS until 1987.

Speaking was one of his strengths. "The man could light up a room,'' Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said following Brookshier's death.

Ron Jaworski, who followed Brookshier from the Eagles into broadcasting, said Saturday that he was inspired by Brookshier in both his careers. And he was especially knowledgeable about Philadelphia's sometimes hostile fans.

"Tom Brookshier was an icon in Philadelphia sports.'' Jaworski said. "When I was traded to the Eagles, Tom took me under his wing and taught me the passion of Philadelphia Eagles fans. For that, I am forever grateful. ... We lost a great leader in Tom Brookshier."
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