Former NFL star, CBS anchor Irv Cross had brain disease CTE

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Irv Cross was a devoted football fan of faith who, in his later years, could no longer attend Bible study or watch an NFL game with his friends. A degenerative brain disorder that aggravated the former Philadelphia Eagles cornerback caused depression, mood swings, and the type of memory loss that left him in isolation.

“He really didn’t want to be with people,” said his widow, Liz Cross. “I was the only one he wanted to be with. When he was with me, he really didn’t want to be with me. He just wanted me to be there.” ”

Cross, a former NFL defensive back, became the first black man to work as a full-time sports analyst on national television. Latest footballer diagnosed with brain disease CTECross, who was 81 when he died on February 28, 2021, was suffering from stage 4 chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Boston University researchers said Tuesday.

Stage 4 is the most advanced stage of CTE and represents a type of injury that often causes cognitive and behavioral problems in people exposed to repetitive head trauma. He struggled to balance physically and was paranoid.

“Towards the end,” said Cross, “he saw something that wasn’t there.”

According to Cross, her husband, who was diagnosed with mild dementia in 2018, often sat in a chair and frowned with persistent headaches. He refused any kind of medicine because the pain didn’t go away. He stopped going to church. A former gaming student, he had no idea who was playing, so NFL games were mostly background he was noise.

“He was afraid someone would question him,” said Cross.

Of course, Irv Cross You are not alone in your dire situation in him Former NFL Brothers. according to the latest reportthe BU CTE Center diagnosed 345 former NFL players with a 91.7% rate of CTE out of 376 former players surveyed.

“He was the nicest, kindest, most helpful, wonderful person I’ve ever met,” Cross said. “But that wasn’t who he was in the end. And it wasn’t him. It was the illness that did it.”

Anne McKee, Ph.D., a professor of neurology and pathology at Boston University, said given the length of Irv Cross’ entire football career (the study counted 17 years) and his age, it’s likely that his brain is He said he was not surprised to reach Stage 4. Irv Cross and his family have decided to donate his brain to raise awareness about the long-term effects of repeated blows to the head.

“I think there’s more education about the dangers of football and more awareness about concussion management, but I still think we’re way behind where we should be,” McKee said. “We need to educate young athletes that this is the risk they are taking. We need to educate coaches to keep head injuries out of the game. There should be more management of athletes with good monitoring, I still think there is a very complacent attitude towards CTE. a lot of denial

In fact, Liz Cross said she and her husband were “in denial” about the cause of his declining health until about five years before his death.

“It was embarrassing for someone who was very active and could do anything, and an athlete who had no balance, no strength, and couldn’t do any of the things he had done before,” she said. I was in constant depression.”

One of 15 children from Hammond, Indiana, Cross starred in soccer and track at Northwestern University. He was drafted by Philadelphia in the seventh round in 1961, traded to the Los Angeles Rams in 1966, and returned to the Eagles for his final season as a player coach in 1969.

The two-time Pro Bowl cornerback had 22 interceptions, 14 fumble recoveries, eight forced fumbles and two defensive touchdowns. He also averaged 27.9 yards on his returns on kickoffs and on his punts on returns.

Chris Nowinski, founder of Concussion Legacy Foundationhe said he met with Cross in 2018 and was “very clear.” ex eagle was suffering.

“It’s important to highlight cases like Irv Cross because he was able to live a long and successful life without CTE dramatically damaging him,” he said. “But I struggled in the end”

Cross joined CBS in 1971 and became the first black network sports show anchor. He left the network in his 1994 and has since served as his director of athletics at Idaho State University and Macalester College in Minnesota. In 2009, he received the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Radio and Television Award. He had been married to Liz for 34 years when he died.

Cross said her husband never regretted his football career.

“He would have done it again soon,” she said. “But he didn’t think kids should play soccer.”

Of the concussions diagnosed, Cross said her husband told her he suffered several concussions while playing, but didn’t count. He suffered so many head injuries that his Eagles teammates called him a “paper head.”

Irv told his wife that after he was hit in the head until his tongue was swallowed, doctors told him that if he had another concussion, “he would die.”

“So he stopped playing? No,” said the 76-year-old widow. “They made him a stronger helmet.”

Liz Cross said she wanted to remember the joy her young grandson brought to Irv in her later years and didn’t want to think about how she had to see the man she loved leave her. rice field.

“He was a wonderful man,” she said. “And this illness changed his life.” ___ AP NFL Websites: and