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Brookshiers passing recalls a different era
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Forsyth County News
Sad news. Tom Brookshier passed away last Friday. The cause was cancer. He was 78.

For those of us of a certain vintage, Brookshier remains one of our earliest links between television and the NFL.

Throughout the 70’s, Brookshier teamed with Pat Summerall as the top NFL broadcast team on CBS. Together, they worked three Super Bowls.

Some of us were fortunate to discover the duo before CBS. In the mid-60’s, they first teamed up as co-hosts of the NFL Films production This
Week in the NFL. Hard as it is to imagine now, this was an era devoid of satellites and ESPN. Sunday night highlights of games outside your area were comprised of the score being shown on the screen.

In those days, NFL Films would shoot every game, and fly the film to its offices in Philadelphia for processing and editing. They would produce highlight clips backed by the classic music produced by Sam Spence and narrated by the “Voice of God” John Facenda. Introducing the highlights
in the studio were Brookshier and Summerall.

The two established a casual rapport and interjected humor that made “This Week” must viewing for any NFL fan. As Summerall once told the New York Times, “With Brookie, it was more of a conversation like two guys in a saloon.”

The pair never lost that chemistry, which made them such a fine broadcast team. As Wilfrid Sheed of the Times noted in a review before the 1976 Super Bowl, “This pair has actually been known to approach the foothills of adult conversation. Brookshier is a natural wag who doesn’t have to strain, and Summerall sounds like a real friend and not a hasty arrangement.”

When most of us think of Summerall today, we think of John Madden, his partner in the booth for 22 years. But in 1981, when that change was made, it created an uproar. “I was really against that move when they did it,” Summerall told Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Brookshier and Summerall were actually the first pair of ex-players to share a broadcast booth. Brookshier played defensive back for the Eagles from ‘53 to’61. He is one of only seven Eagles to have his jersey retired.

“If you had somebody you wanted on your team, it was old Tom Brookshier, number 40,” teammate Tommy McDonald told Brookover. “He was a really good leader. He was right there with Chuck Bednarik. They were two guys that really, really stood up for the defense big time.”

“We’ve lost one of the great Eagles of all time,” Bednarik told Bob Grotz of “Tom Brookshier represented everything you could want in a teammate and friend. Brookie was one of the best people that I’ve ever known, and I am proud to have been his friend for so many years.

“He was always a leader on the field and in the locker room. He might have been the toughest defensive back of our era. He was a hitter.”

Brookshier, Bednarik, and McDonald led the Eagles to the 1960 NFL Championship, a 17-13 win over Green Bay. It remains the Eagles only championship over the past 60 years. It also remains the only playoff game Vince Lombardi’s Packers ever lost.

Brookshire came out of the University of Colorado and made an immediate impact at the Eagles 1953 training camp. “I looked around and there were, like, 90 guys out there!” he told Jim Gehman of in 2005. “I go over to the general manager and say, ‘Mr. McNally?’
He said, ‘Who are you?’ I said ‘Brookshier.’ He said, ‘Oh, yeah. A 10th round draft choice.’ I said, ‘Yes. Which Philadelphia bank is my money in?’
And he said, ‘What money?’ I said, ‘The $55 hundred you offered me on the telephone.’ He said, ‘That’s for the whole year.’

“All the guys around him are laughing, so I said, ‘How many guys are you going to keep?’ And he said, ‘33.’ So I went out on the field, and the number one draft choice came downfield on a pass pattern, and I knocked him out. Our coach jumped up and yelled and I thought, ‘Oh, my God, I’m going to get cut!’ But he ran out and said, ‘I like that.’”

That’s how Brookshier became a fixture in the Eagles secondary. He remained there until the middle of the 1961 season, when he suffered a severe leg injury in a game against the Bears.

A young Philadelphia reporter named Bill Conlin, who still writes for the Philadelphia Daily News, was assigned to get a quote from Brookshier, post-surgery. “This wasn’t about saving his football career,” Conlin wrote, “this was about saving his leg for tasks like standing and walking. Tom was heavily sedated.

“For years, Brookshier described our first encounter like this: ‘When I woke up, I thought maybe I had died and gone to heaven. But I knew that wasn’t the case because the first thing I saw was Bill Conlin standing there with a notebook in his hand!’”

Brookshier always enjoyed a good laugh, and a good time. Some of his exploits with Summerall were legendary. But when it came time for the family intervention to save Summerall from his alcoholism, Pat’s first wife turned to Brookshier.

“My best friend deceived me to get me into that intervention,” Summerall told Bill Lyon of the Inquirer. “And I’ll never be able to thank him enough. He’s the closest thing to a brother that I have.”

To Brookshier, it was no big deal. “We’re supposed to look out for each other. Isn’t that what friends are for?”