(AP) -- Pro Football Hall of Famer Frank Gifford, who led the New York Giants to a league championship in 1956 and later teamed up with Howard Cosell and Don Meredith in the "Monday Night Football" booth, died Sunday. He was 84.
In a statement released by NBC News, his family said Gifford died suddenly at his Connecticut home of natural causes Sunday morning. His wife, Kathie Lee Gifford, is a host for NBC's "Today."
"Frank Gifford was an icon of the game, both as a Hall of Fame player for the Giants and Hall of Fame broadcaster for CBS and ABC," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. "Frank's talent and charisma on the field and on the air were important elements in the growth and popularity of the modern NFL."
Gifford was the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 1956 when he led the Giants to the championship. He played running back, defensive back, wide receiver and special teams in his career, a versatile star in a time of greater specialization, and went to the Pro Bowl at three different positions.
"We rejoice in the extraordinary life he was privileged to live, and we feel grateful and blessed to have been loved by such an amazing human being," his family said in the statement. "We ask that our privacy be respected at this difficult time and we thank you for your prayers."
Gifford was the centerpiece of a Giants offense that went to five NFL title games in the 1950s and `60s. Beginning in 1971, he worked for ABC's "Monday Night Football," at first as a play-by-play announcer and then as an analyst.
Later in life he stayed in the spotlight through his marriage to Kathie Lee Gifford, who famously called him a "human love machine" and "lamb-chop" to her millions of viewers.
"He was a great friend to everyone in the league, a special adviser to NFL commissioners, and served NFL fans with enormous distinction for so many decades," Goodell added. "We will always remember Frank's contributions and miss his friendship. Our hearts go out to Kathie Lee and the entire Gifford family."
Gifford hosted "Wide World of Sports," covered several Olympics -- his call of Franz Klammer's downhill gold medal run in 1976 is considered a broadcasting masterpiece -- and announced 588 consecutive NFL games for ABC, not even taking time off after the death of his mother shortly before a broadcast in 1986.
While he worked with others, including Dan Dierdorf, Al Michaels, Joe Namath and O.J. Simpson, Gifford was most known for the eight years he served as a calm buffer between the folksy Meredith and acerbic Cosell.