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Wayne Walker (1936 - 2017)

Getty / George Rose

Wayne Walker (1936 - 2017)

Wayne Walker, a former Pro-Bowl linebacker for the Detroit Lions who went on to a successful career as a broadcaster, died Friday, May 19, 2017, of complications from Parkinson’s disease, according to multiple news sources. He was 80.

Walker was drafted out of Idaho by the Lions in 1958 and immediately made an impact on the team, returning an interception and fumble for touchdowns in his rookie season. He played 200 games for the Detroit Lions from 1958 to 1972, a franchise record that stood until 2004, when it was surpassed by kicker Jason Hanson. Walker was mainly a linebacker, but he also served as a placekicker for several seasons. He played in three consecutive Pro Bowls, from 1964 to 1966.

“Wayne was one of our finest players from the decade of the '60s and will not only be remembered for his career accomplishments as a Lion, but also for his great success as a broadcaster after his playing days were over,” Detroit Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford said in a statement.

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Following his retirement from the game field, he joined KPIX-TV in San Francisco as sports director in 1974. He spent 20 years covering Bay Area sports. He was also a radio commentator for the San Francisco 49ers during their 1980s heyday. His experience as a player gave him insight that few other sports broadcasters possessed.

“He did things the right way that allowed him to get answers and trust from players that no one else could,” Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana told SFGATE. “I don’t think Wayne ever had an agenda. He was always on the up-and-up.”

Walker also commented on Oakland Athletics baseball games, and later covered some regional NFL games for CBS.

Walker retired from broadcasting in 1999. He lived in Boise, Idaho.

In 2015, he told SFGATE that he had been battling Parkinson’s disease for five years. During his 15-year professional playing career, he said he experienced 20 concussions.

Walker is survived by his wife, Sylvia; sons Steve and Doug; a daughter, Kathy; and eight grandchildren.

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