After Dan Fouts was a Hall-of-Fame quarterback and before he was a Hall-of-Fame voter, he was paired with a Hall-of-Fame broadcaster — the legendary Keith Jackson — and he and Fouts worked together on college football broadcasts.
“Keith taught me so much about the preparation of the game,” Fouts said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast.
That, of course, was before Jackson retired from the business and before Fouts went on to work NFL broadcasts. Now, however, Fouts will be reunited with his former partner one last time when he and others — including Hall-of-Famers Lynn Swann and Bob Griese — address “the Keith Jackson Celebration of Life” at the Rose Bowl on April 15.
It’s an event that will honor Jackson, who passed away in January and whose name is synonymous with the Rose Bowl, and it’s an event that is free, open to the public and guaranteed to be memorable.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Fouts.
So are we. Which is why we contacted Fouts to learn what he remembers about working with Jackson, what he learned from him and what he misses most. In essence, to learn what Fouts might say about Mr. Saturday Afternoon.
“One of the first games I ever did with him,” said Fouts, “it might have been the first game I did with him … I stood there and listened to him go through his opening and go through the starting lineups and go through the first and second plays … just listening. And he looked at me, and he said, (imitating Keith Jackson), ‘Well, son, are you going to talk today?’ And I had to apologize and say, ‘No, I’d rather just listen to you. Are you kidding?’ ”
Listening to Jackson was as easy as it was a pleasure. In fact, shortly after Jackson passed away one writer said that autumn Saturdays died along with him, and he didn’t have to explain. You couldn’t think of Saturdays without thinking of Keith Jackson.
“He was so concerned with being exact and being right,” Fouts said, “but also in not going overboard; an economy of words. He always wanted to articulate and educate, and, if you can, entertain people a little bit.
“You know I can’t come up with the ‘Big Uglies.’ I can’t say ‘Whoa, Nellie.’ I can’t do all these things. But they were natural to him, and that’s what made him great. He had this southern charm, and he had this discipline of being a Marine and just a hard-working guy that never refused an assignment.”
Fouts misses all of that. He said he misses looking at Jackson’s pre-game notes, which were hand-written “with a mechanical pencil in the most beautiful cursive” on a yellow legal pad. And he misses the phone calls he had with him. But most of all … well, most of all, he said, he just misses the friendship.
“Whenever you lose a friend,” he said, “there are a million things you remember and you miss … (Like) after our final game together, the great 2006 Texas victory over USC in the Rose Bowl for the national title. He hosted a party in the parking lot under a tent that we had set up for our broadcast team. And he brought some of the finest wines that you can imagine. And we just sat there under this tent knowing that this was the great Keith Jackson’s last broadcast here at the Rose Bowl … and just wishing it wasn’t true but glad that we were all a part of it.”
The Keith Jackson Celebration of Life is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. on April 15, with gates open at 3 p.m., and all attendees encouraged to wear their school colors to help honor Jackson’s legacy. The event is the second within a month where Fouts has been asked to speak on behalf of a former broadcast partner — and broadcast giant — who died within the past four months.
He spoke at Petco Park last month to honor the late Dick Enberg.
“The thing about losing a guy like Dick Enberg or a guy like Keith Jackson,” Fouts said, “is that there will never, ever be that type of broadcaster again. It’s just the way the industry is now. They’re just so iconic, so versatile, so memorable and so recognizable that when you hear their voices, you put the clicker down and you just watch. And that’s rare these days.”