The world lost a legend Sunday when NFL Hall of Famer Frank Gifford passed away at the age of 84.
But Bakersfield lost a pioneer.
Before Buck Owens and Merle Haggard used their golden voices to add color to our city, and long before racers Rick, Roger and Casey Mears made sure Bakersfield was a fixture on the national sporting map, there was Frank Gifford.
Gifford came to Bakersfield in the 1940s when his father came to work in the oil fields. But for the younger Gifford, paydirt was struck on the athletic fields, where his talents made him a star quarterback at Bakersfield High School.
Despite his success, Gifford found himself at a turning point familiar to many young graduates: he didn’t have the grades to accept an athletic scholarship, in his case, to the University of Southern California. Rather than give up, Gifford pushed forward, enrolling at Bakersfield College instead, where he made to make his mark as a Renegade both on the playing field and in the classroom.
In earning his way to USC the following year, Gifford built a road map for success that ultimately inspired thousands upon thousands of future students to follow.
His football accomplishments with the New York Giants are legion: 6-time Pro Bowler, NFL MVP, league champion and finally, NFL Hall of Fame inductee in 1977. What’s more remarkable is that his second career as a pioneering broadcaster, most notably on ABC’s “Monday Night Football,” may even have eclipsed his days on the gridiron.
For more on Gifford’s remarkable life, please check out Bob Price’s terrific column here.
Frank Gifford will be deeply missed. But on top of all his public triumphs and accolades, we at BC will be forever in his debt for showing our young people exactly how to follow their dreams. Gifford hit his obstacles head-on and climbed over them rather than turn away at the first sign of difficulty.
Thank you, Mr. Gifford. And thank you Francis Mayer and Jason Kobely for pulling this together.