Legendary ESPN Sportscaster Chris Berman Named Walter Camp “Distinguished American”

Legendary sportscaster Chris Berman (Brown University) is the 2019 recipient of Walter Camp Football Foundation’s Distinguished American award. 

The Walter Camp “Distinguished American” award is presented each year to an individual who has utilized his or her talents to attain great success in business, private life or public service and who may have accomplished that which no other has done. He or she may have a record of dedication to mankind that should not pass unrecognized and a life that has been dedicated to the preservation of the American ideal. The recipient need not have participated in football but must be one who understands its lesson of self-denial, cooperation and teamwork, and one who is a person of honesty, integrity and dedication. He or she must be a leader, an innovator, even a pioneer, who has reached a degree of excellence that distinguishes him or her from contemporaries, as well as someone who lives within the principles of Walter Camp.

Past recipients of the Walter Camp Distinguished American honor include nationally-respected sportscasters Keith Jackson (1995), Pat Summerall (2004) and Verne Lundquist (2014), all-purpose television personality Regis Philbin (2003), former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue (1994), world-renowned entertainer Bob Hope (1985), former college coach Eddie Robinson (1982), and last year’s recipient, former NFL standout Archie Manning.

“Chris Berman is one of the most highly-respected and beloved sportscasters of his era,” Walter Camp Foundation president Mario Coppola said. “His knowledge, enthusiasm and passion for sports, especially for the sport of football, make him a worthy recipient.”

Hired at ESPN in October 1979, Berman has become one of America’s most respected and popular sportscasters. He has also been recognized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, his peers and countless other organizations for his exceptional contributions to sports broadcasting.  Six times the versatile Berman has been selected National Sportscaster of the Year (1989, 1990, 1993, 1994, 1996 and 2001) by the members of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. Berman and his various shows have won 10 Emmy Awards and 12 CableACEs.

Berman received the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award from the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010 for his longtime exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football.  In December 2017, Berman was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame. In 2016, he was honored with the Newseum Institute’s Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in Media – the first sportscaster ever honored. He was also inducted into the National Sports Media Association (formerly NSSA) Hall of Fame. In 2015, Berman was just the fifth on-air personality to be inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame.

Berman – a veteran of 37 Super Bowls, beginning with the 49ers’ first NFL Championship in Super Bowl XVI – began working alongside Tom Jackson on Sunday NFL Countdown in 1987 when ESPN first acquired the rights to carry the NFL. Berman and Jackson teamed together every Sunday night in the fall from 1987-2005 to host the critically-acclaimed NFL PrimeTime, which still holds the record as cable television’s highest-rated sports studio show.   In September 2019, the duo returned to host NFL PrimeTime.

Berman also anchored ESPN’s annual NFL Draft telecast for 30 years (1987-2016).  Nicknamed the “Swami,” Berman’s prognosticating alter-ego, provided weekly NFL predictions and observations on SportsCenter since ESPN’s very first year in 1979.  In addition to his NFL coverage, Berman also covered major league baseball and golf for ESPN.  Berman regularly hosted SportsCenter in ESPN’s first 11 years, culminating in the network’s first Emmy Award in 1990.

On May 24, 2010, Berman was honored by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as a tribute for his more than 30 years contributing to the sports television industry.  Berman is also a golf enthusiast and has played himself in 15 motion pictures.

Berman graduated from Brown University in 1977 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. His first broadcasting position came while he was a student at Brown as sports director for WBRU Radio and commentator for basketball, football, ice hockey and baseball games.

In November 1991, he was inducted into the Brown University Athletic Hall of Fame, and in May 2007 he received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from his alma mater.

Berman began his career as a disc jockey at WERI in Westerly, RI, hosting a news-oriented talk show and covering high school football and basketball games. One year later, he joined WNVR Radio in Waterbury, Conn., broadcasting high school football games, co-hosting a sports talk show and doing traffic reports.  Berman’s first television exposure came in 1979 when he joined WVIT-TV, an NBC affiliate in Hartford, Conn., as a weekend sports anchor.

Berman currently resides in Cheshire.  He will be honored at the organization’s National Awards Dinner on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020 in New Haven, Conn.

Walter Camp, “The Father of American football,” first selected an All-America team in 1889. Camp – a former Yale University athlete and football coach – is also credited with developing play from scrimmage, set plays, the numerical assessment of goals and tries and the restriction of play to eleven men per side. The Walter Camp Football Foundation – a New Haven-based all-volunteer group – was founded in 1967.  The organization’s mission is to perpetuate the ideals of Camp and to continue the tradition of selecting annually an All-America team and honoring deserving individuals.

Distinguished American recipients

2019 – Chris Berman, Brown

2018 – Archie Manning, Ole Miss

2017 – Lee Corso, Florida State University

2016 – Mike Ditka, University of Pittsburgh

2015 – Tim Shriver, Yale University/Special Olympics

2014 – Verne Lundquist, Texas Lutheran
2013 – Joe Theismann, Notre Dame
2012 – Tom Osborne, Hastings College/University of Nebraska
2011 – Floyd Little, Syracuse University
2010 – Chuck Bednarik, Pennsylvania
2009 – Robin Roberts, Southeastern Louisiana
2008 – Len Dawson, Purdue
2007 – Frank Broyles, Georgia Tech
2006 – Dick Vermeil, San Jose State
2005 – Arthur Blank, Babson
2004 – Pat Summerall, Arkansas
2003 – Bill Walsh, San Jose State
2002 – Regis Philbin, Notre Dame
2001 – New York City Police, Fire, and Emergency Medical Service Personnel
2000 – Gene Upshaw, Texas A&I
1999 – Bo Schembechler, Miami (Ohio)
1998 – Steve Young, Brigham Young
1997 – Steve Largent, Tulsa
1996 – Dick Ebersol, Yale
1995 – Keith Jackson, Washington State
1994 – Paul Tagliabue, Georgetown
1993 – Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C.
1992 – Carm Cozza, Miami (Ohio)/Yale
1991 – Alexander Kroll, Rutgers
1990 – Tex Schramm, Texas
1989 – Richard Kazmaier, Princeton
1989 – Burt Reynolds, Florida State
1988 – Y.A. Tittle, Louisiana State
1987 – Weeb Ewbank, Miami (Ohio)
1986 – Tom Landry, Texas
1985 – Bob Hope
1984 – Maj. Gen. Bill Carpenter, Army
1983 – Tom Harmon, Michigan
1982 – Eddie Robinson, Grambling State
1981 – Harold “Red” Grange, Illinois
1980 – Alexander Haig, Army
1980 – George Halas, Illinois
1979 – David “Sonny” Werblin, Rutgers
1978 – James Crowley, Notre Dame