One of the best athletes to come from Idaho, and a beloved Bay Area broadcaster, Wayne Walker died of complications from Parkinsons disease in Boise on Friday. He was 80 years old.
Walker, a 1954 graduate of Boise High, played football at the University of Idaho, and was a fourth-round pick of the Detroit Lions in 1958. He played 15 seasons for the Lions as a linebacker and placekicker, playing in three Pro Bowls. His No. 53 is retired by Idaho. In 1999, he was named by Sports Illustrated as one of the top 10 athletes from the Gem State.
In 2010, longtime teammate Dick LeBeau, who is now the Tennesse Titans defensive coordinator, told the Detroit Free Press he thinks Walker should be in the Hall of Fame.
Following his retirement from the NFL, Walker was the sports director at KPIX-TV in San Francisco from 1974-94 and was a color commentator for 49ers and Oakland Athletics games. He retired from broadcasting in the late 1990s and moved back to Boise afterward.
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“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,” Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford said in a team statement.
Walker is survived by his wife, Sylvia, three children (Steve, Doug and Kathy) and had eight grandchildren.
“He was the best,” Joe Montana, the 49ers’ Hall of Fame quarterback told the San Francisco Chronicle. “He did things the right way that allowed him to get answers and trust from players that no one else could.”