Sad news this past weekend when we learned of the unexpected passing of Frank Gifford at age 84. The legendary football player was indeed one of the great ones of the sport, playing 12 years with the New York Giants (1952-1964) and visiting the Pro Bowl on a number of occasions. In 1956, he was the league's Most Valuable Player and led the Giants to a championship that is now known as the Super Bowl. In 1977, he was inducted into the pro football Hall of Fame.
Of course, what made Frank Gifford truly gifted was that he was much more than a great football player. Unlike many great athletes who disappear from the face of the earth after their time in professional sports, Gifford was different and a true champion in everything he did. A lot of performers are capable of outstanding performance, but the great ones all have one thing in common: consistency. Day after day, they perform at the very highest level. Gifford was one of the most consistently great performers of our time, both on and off the field.
During his time in the NFL, he was extremely talented, excelling at multiple positions from wide receiver, special teams and defensive back. Off the field he was an actor and broadcaster. For almost 15 years, he was the face of Monday Night Football, and when he wasn't involved with sports he was acting, appearing in many films including Up Periscope.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, "Frank Gifford was an icon of the game, both as a Hall of Fame player for the Giants and Hall of Fame broadcaster for CBS and ABC. Frank's talent and charisma on the field and on the air were important elements in the growth and popularity of the modern NFL."
Goodell continued, "He was a great friend to everyone in the league, a special advisor to NFL commissioners, and served NFL fans with enormous distinction for so many decades."
True champions have class, and they consistently conduct themselves in a manner congruent with their self-image. Frank Gifford was one of those true champions. In fact, when people ask me what one of the secrets of becoming one of the great ones is, I tell them to pick up a biography of their favorite champion and read it cover to cover. This will give you an idea of the level of dedication it takes to become one of the great ones. Frank Gifford would definitely be one of the biographies I'd recommend.
Gifford was married to Kathie Lee Gifford, the singer, songwriter, actress and host of NBC's fourth hour of Today. While I never had the opportunity to meet Frank Gifford personally, I've talked with Kathie Lee Gifford during a few of my appearances on NBC's Today Show. In fact, one story I fondly remember is when I was doing an interview with Hoda and Kathie Lee, and we were chatting in the green room before going on air. My interview was about my 2009 bestseller, Die Fat or Get Tough: 101 Differences in Thinking Between Fat People and Fit People. Kathie Lee told me that she and Frank read the book over the weekend. Needless to say I was star struck. Anyone who does television interviews will tell you it's rare for a host to read your book. I've walked on set in many TV studios around the country and had the host ask me what my book was about. But when Kathie Lee told me that she and Frank read my book, it's a moment I will never forget. I was like a kid in a candy shop and couldn't stop thinking about it for weeks that Frank Gifford read my book. What an honor.
Football fans and non-football fans alike can learn something from this remarkable man who led a life full of great accomplishments and was revered by so many.