Irv Cross

Irv Cross, who spent nine years in the NFL before becoming the first Black man to work as a full-time sports analyst on national television, has been diagnosed posthumously with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Cross, who passed away on Feb. 28, 2021, suffered from stage 4 CTE, Boston University researchers said Tuesday.

Stage 4 is the most advanced stage of CTE and often leads to symptoms such as profound memory loss, language deficits, mood disorders such as aggression, and dementia.

According to his window, Liz Cross, the former Philadelphia Eagles cornerback dealt with depression, mood swings, and memory loss towards the end of his life.

“He really didn’t want to be with people,” said Cross, per the AP. “The only person he wanted to be with was me. When he was with me, he really didn’t want to be with me. He just wanted me to be there.”

She added that he also became very paranoid and struggled to balance himself when standing.

“Toward the end,” Cross said, “he saw things that weren’t there.”

Cross had been diagnosed with mild cognitive dementia in 2018 and stopped watching NFL games to avoid embarrassment if asked about them.

“He was afraid someone would ask him a question,” Cross said, “and he wouldn’t know the answer.”

Cross is hardly alone in the diagnosis. According to the BU CTE Center, out of 376 former players they’ve studied, 345 had CTE (91.7%).

“I do think there’s more education about the risks of football and I do think there’s more awareness of concussion management but I still think we’re way, way behind where we should be,” Dr. Ann McKee, a professor of neurology and pathology at Boston University, told the AP. “We need to educate young athletes that this is a risk that they are undertaking. We need to educate coaches to keep head trauma out of the game. We need to do more managing of athletes by monitoring them better. I still think there’s a very cavalier attitude toward CTE. There’s a lot of denial.”

According to Liz Cross, her husband said that while he didn’t regret playing the sport, “he didn’t think kids should play football.”

During his playing career, Cross was a two-time Pro Bowler who amassed 22 interceptions, 14 fumble recoveries, eight forced fumbles, and two touchdowns. He averaged 27.9 yards on kickoff returns and punts as well.

After retiring, Cross joined CBS and became the first Black network sports show anchor. Though Cross was probably best known for his work on The NFL Today, he covered a variety of sports for CBS, calling NBA games, along with track and field and gymnastics during his 23 years at the network. He also anchored sports updates during broadcasts of college basketball, boxing, and other events.

In 2009, he received the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award.


About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to