Person of the Week: Keith Jackson

April 28, 2006 — -- He's covered baseball, football, Olympic events and the occasional bikini contest, and now sportscaster Keith Jackson has broadcast his signature greeting for the last time.

At 77, the legendary ABC Sports reporter says he's "too old for this" and is retiring.

"I'm at a point in my life where I can't see as well, I can't hear as well and I damn sure can't run as fast," Jackson said. "And you get tired after a while. I've been doing it for 53 years and I think that's long enough."

He flirted with retirement in 1998 but was lured back to the booth with a schedule that kept him close to home on the West Coast.

Now he says the 2006 Rose Bowl is the last college football game he'll call, and he says it was a "pretty good one."

Jackson developed his down-home style during 40 years with ABC Sports. He was on the air for the first Monday Night Football game in 1970, alongside Howard Cosell, but ultimately his name became synonynous with college sports.

He says his famed expression "whoa Nellie" wasn't something he created during a sports event. "My mule's name was Pearl. And I don't know, the 'whoa Nellie' thing kind of just got hung on me," Jackson said.

Favorite Moments

After decades in stadiums, he can point to a few favorite moments, including his Olympic coverage of speed skater Eric Heiden, who won five gold medals in the 1980 Lake Placid winter games, and of swimmer Mark Spitz, who won seven golds at the 1972 summer games in Munich.

"One of the things I am most proud of is that I called and covered the two greatest gold medal winners in the history of the Olympic Games," he said.

The sportscaster grew up on a farm in eastern Georgia, which is surprisingly where he made his start in broadcasting.

"One time my grandmother said to my mother, 'You'd better go out there and talk to your kid. I think he's crazy because he's running around in a cornfield talking to himself,'" Jackson said. "And I wasn't talking to myself. I was sending Walter Middy over the goal line at the Rose Bowl."

Now, after more than 50 years on the road, Jackson just wants to spend time with his wife, children and grandchildren at home.

"I aspire to be the shop steward of the international porch sitters union. I think that would be a noble profession and a timely one," Jackson said. "I will not miss packing, dragging through the airport, unpacking, bad hotels, races to the airport, I won't miss that -- but I will miss the people."