Tom Jackson, the standout Denver Broncos linebacker and Pro Football Hall of Fame broadcaster, joined ESPN as its first NFL studio analyst in 1987 for the launch of the network’s NFL game coverage. Jackson remained one of sports media’s foremost pro football analysts for 29 years before retiring in August 2016. After stepping away for a couple of seasons, Jackson returned to broadcasting in 2019, reuniting weekly with longtime partner Chris Berman on NFL PrimeTime on ESPN+.
Jackson’s analyst work over three decades was recognized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015 when he received the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award for his longtime exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football. He was also the 2009 Sports Emmy award recipient in the Outstanding Studio Analyst category.
Jackson teamed with host Chris Berman on Sunday NFL Countdown from 1987 through 2015 during which time ESPN’s weekly Sunday morning pregame show garnered seven Sports Emmy awards for Outstanding Studio Show – Weekly (1988, 1991, 1994, 1995, 2001, 2003 and 2007 seasons). The Berman-Jackson duo also teamed together every Sunday night in the fall from 1987-2005 to host the critically-acclaimed NFL PrimeTime, annually cable television’s highest-rated studio show.
Berman and Jackson – who have reunited on ESPN+ since 2019 – continued to deliver NFL highlights to fans during both the 7 p.m. Sunday edition of SportsCenter and on “The Blitz” on the 11 p.m. SportsCenter from 2006-15. In addition, Jackson served as the on-site analyst for ESPN’s annual coverage of the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony up until his final on-set appearance in Canton, Ohio in 2016 when he announced his retirement.
Jackson was part of ESPN’s annual Super Bowl coverage. He also provided analysis on ESPN’s NFL Draft telecast and was an analyst on ABC’s Super Bowl XL pre-game show from Detroit in 2006.
In recognition of his outstanding 14-year playing career – all with the Broncos, Jackson became the 14th player in franchise history to be inducted into Denver’s “Ring of Fame” on Oct. 4, 1992. He played in Super Bowls XII and XXI for the Broncos and held Denver team records for most seasons (14) and games played (191) for many years after his retirement until both marks were broken by Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway. Jackson retired with 20 career interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns.
Jackson made three appearances in the Pro Bowl (1977-79). He was named by his teammates as Denver’s defensive Most Valuable Player in 1974, 1976-77, and was voted Denver’s Most Inspirational Player (1981-86), the only Broncos player to have won the award at the time of his retirement.
Jackson’s pre-ESPN broadcasting experience included co-host positions for both “Broncos Beat” — a weekly show on KCNC-TV in Denver — and a post-game show on KUSA-TV. He also hosted a daily syndicated sports commentary radio show, “Behind the Line.”
For his broadcasting work, Jackson was awarded the “best sports analyst” Cable Ace in 1996. In 1990, he was named the Walter Camp Football Foundation’s “Alumnus of the Year.” Jackson also wrote an autobiography, “Blitz.”
A native of Cleveland, Jackson graduated from the University of Louisville in 1973 where he was a two-time Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year. His number 50 remains one of the honored jerseys in the program’s history. Jackson – along with Muhammad Ali – was also one of the Louisville legends invited to participate in the coin toss at the 2013 BCS Sugar Bowl game when the Cardinals upset highly-ranked Florida.