Original Monday Night Footballer Don Meredith Dies

The lights go out for Dandy Don

By Josh Grossberg Dec 06, 2010 6:01 PMTags

Dandy Don, rest in peace.

Don Meredith, the NFL star-turned-Monday Night Football cut-up, died Sunday at 72.

His wife, Susan, told the Associated Press her husband was stricken by a brain hemorrhage at their home in Santa Fe and was taken to a hospital, where he lapsed into a coma. His wife and daughter were at his side when he died.

"He was the best there was," Susan told the wire service, describing her husband as kind, warm and funny. "We lost a good one."

Meredith, earned the nickname "Dandy Don" as the Dallas Cowboys' starting quarterback when they joined the NFL in 1959, becoming its first genuine star. During his nine seasons there, Meredith threw for 17,199 yards and 111 touchdowns and led the Cowboys to the 1966 and 1967 NFL title games, both of which they lost to the Green Bay Packers.

The charming three-time Pro Bowler abruptly retired just before the 1969 season at the age of 31, before the Cowboys won any of their Super Bowls.

In 1970, he became one of the first pro players to transition from the field to the broadcast booth, joining Howard Cosell and Keith Jackson as part of ABC's original Monday Night Football team. He was instantly popular with fans, with his one-liners, down-home expressions and his signature call, singing Willie Nelson's "Turn Out the Lights" when it looked like the game was over.

Meredith spent three seasons as a color analyst at MNF before leaving for NBC where he signed a three-year contract. But he returned to Cosell and company in 1977 and remained there until stepping down in 1984.

In the '80s, Meredith turned to acting, appearing in a number of Hollywood movies and TV shows, including a headlining role in Police Story. He was also famous for his Lipton Tea spots and most recently, played his animated self on an episode of King of the Hill.

A private graveside service is pending for family in Santa Fe.