By JERRY BARMASH
Longtime Giants punter and later football broadcaster, Dave Jennings, passed away today after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. Jennings died at his home in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. He was 61. Those who knew him best, describe Jennings as a terrific person.
Jennings was associated with two NFL teams on the field, and in the booth.
From 1974 to 1984, he was the Giants punter. By the end of the decade with Big Blue, Jennings posted franchise records with most punts and most yards. He was selected to four Pro Bowls.
In 2011, Jennings was treated as an All-Time Giants great, in being added to the Ring of Honor.
He also spent three seasons booting the pigskin for the Jets.
But Jennings enjoyed his longest radio stint with analyst for the Jets. He was the constant in the booth for the 13 seasons, while sharing the mic working with four different play-by-play voices. One of those radio partners was Ian Eagle, working his first NFL action in 1997.
“He very easily could have been a college professor [with] his temperament, his intellect, [and] dry sense of humor,” Eagle tells Tuned In. “One thing I certainly learned from him was the preparation aspect. He was so thorough.”
The neophyte broadcaster also got a crash course from his “professor” about the game.
“Nobody knew the rules better,” Eagle recalls. “He felt that in order to do the games he had to be locked in with all the rules and all the changes, year-to-year.”
Before getting the play-by-play gig, Eagle was hosting pre- and post-game duties, where he would overlap with Jennings starting in 1993.
After leaving the Jets, Jennings remained at the Meadowlands as part of the Giants broadcast booth from 2002 to 2007. He joined Bob Papa and the late Dick Lynch.
“Many of us still here at WFAN had the pleasure of working with Dave for many years as he first broadcast Jets games and later on Giants games on the station,” Mark Chernoff, WFAN program director, tells Tuned In. He was always a professional, always well-prepared, and always extremely analytical—[he] could often predict what the next play would be.”
The Eagle/Jennings tandem became bi-continental, when it called NFL Europe games for Fox. That triggers a fond memory of Eagle’s friend, whom he refers to as a “kind soul.”
As they embarked from New York before the season started, Jennings asked Eagle if he had any questions before going to sleep. Eagle told him it could wait until the nap was finished. Jennings, though, reiterated that he was going to sleep for the entire 7 1/2 hour flight to London. Wearing the sleep mask, Jennings promptly fell asleep as they took off.
“I proceeded to watch two movies, have multiple meals, take at least three trips to the bathroom, read half of a book, and the man does not wake up until the wheels touch down at Heathrow,” Eagle remembers. “It was the most amazing display I’ve ever seen of sleeping on a plane.”