Wayne Walker, All-Pro linebacker turned broadcaster, dies at 80

Wayne Walker, who played 15 years for the Lions and then spent 20 years covering the 49ers as a broadcaster, has died at the age of 80.

Walker passed away in Boise, Idaho, his hometown and the place he moved back to after retiring from broadcasting. The cause of death was Parkinson’s Disease.

As a center and middle linebacker at the University of Idaho, Walker was a team captain as well as a teammate and roommate of Jerry Kramer, who would go on to have a long career with the Packers.

The Lions chose Walker in the fourth round of the 1958 NFL draft, and he played for them until 1972. He was a three-time All-Pro as a linebacker and was also the team’s kicker, and his 200 career games played were a franchise record until longtime Lions kicker Jason Hanson played his 201st game in 2004.

After he retired from playing, Walker moved to the Bay Area and worked in broadcasting covering both the 49ers and the Oakland Athletics.

He was the best,” 49ers Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana 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.”

Walker recalled in 2009 that he took great pride in his dedication as a player, which meant going to work every day for 15 years.

“I won the job as a rookie and they didn’t have to worry about my position for 15 years,” Walker said. “I started as a rookie and I started the last game I played. . . . I’ve told my grandkids this: I was proud of the fact that I could actually tell people – and say it and know that it’s the truth – I never took a game off. I never took a play off. I never took a practice off – and I really don’t even remember taking a play off in practice. I went every day as hard as I could.”

Photo via Detroit Lions.

27 responses to “Wayne Walker, All-Pro linebacker turned broadcaster, dies at 80

  1. I’m a Packers fan, but it’s sad to see the recent passing of several Lions greats from the old days.
    Wayne Walker was a terrific, hardnosed player and one of the good guys. A good broadcaster too.
    Thanks for the memories. RIP.

  2. But is he donating his brain to CTE research? It should not be just a bunch of self-selecting guys with problems. The study should include guys like Wayne who lived a long time after playing football for a long time and don’t appear to have any symptoms.

  3. RIP. I enjoyed his low key fact-based reporting, which is getting rare these days with all the unfounded rumors being passed around as facts in sports reporting. Many people in the media still insist that Jim Harbaugh was fired by Jed York even though there is zero fact supporting it. Harbaugh did not collect a single dime on the last year of his $5 million a year contract, which is owed him if he was fired. Wayne Walker would never do that as a reporter.

  4. Wayne was the best thing to ever happen to Bay Area sports television in the 70s-90s. His weekly 49er shows during all of the glory years were awesome. Such a pro.

    RIP and thank you

  5. I echo the comments of those who praise Wayne Walker. As a Packers fan, I always admired the way he played and his toughness.
    To me, there will always be only one best LB’er of all time and that is Dick Butkus. Butkus was better than any LB’er I ever saw play, and again — I’m a Packers fan. Had Dick Butkus played on better teams, he’d have done even greater things than he did, which are already phenominal. He was literally a one man wrecking crew.
    But Wayne Walker was one of the best of the next tier.
    What a credit to the game and if the guys today played with as much class as Wayne Walker had, they’d be something.
    R.I.P. Wayne Walker and a heartfelt condolence to all Lions fans.

  6. I remember him doing sports broadcasts in the off season while he was still a player in Detroit.
    R.I.P. Wayne Walker.

  7. Wayne seemed like the nicest guy. A real gentleman. He was the perfect guy to be the voice of the 49ers throughout their dynasty. He fit right in. A true champion. I doubt he ever made an enemy.

  8. We’ve lost a great one. Wayne was awesome as Niner beat reporter & local sportscaster for KPIX back in the Niner glory days. I expect Eddie D to make some kind of classy statement shortly. Truly loved by all associated with the Niners. Must have sickened him to watch the York family destroy the franchise over the last 15 years. RIP Wayne!

  9. Didn’t know he was that respected as a broadcaster. Quite a compliment from Super Joe.

    But he didn’t play on ‘less than average’ Lion teams.
    In 1972 they had the #2 ranked Defense and #2 ranked offense. Wayne Walker was an important part of that. And they were far from boring – thank you Alex Karras.

    Unfortunately, that’s been the high-water mark even thru the Barry Sanders era…until this year. Its gonna be fun this year NFC North, for the first time in a long time.

  10. One reason he lasted so long. Never let his guard down while playing. In both game day and practice. This has got to be a lesson that players must absorb. If you listen to players with injury results, most will tell you, injuries occurred when my guard was down. Football is the toughest organized battle, one will ever encounter without the use of firepower. It is well researched and documented.

  11. He actually did sports on newscasts on one of the stations around here for awhile.
    Wayne was a top notch sports analyst. We missed him here in the bay area.
    RIP

  12. But is he donating his brain to CTE research? It should not be just a bunch of self-selecting guys with problems. The study should include guys like Wayne who lived a long time after playing football for a long time and don’t appear to have any symptoms.
    **********************************************
    Huh, duh, Parkinson’s is a brain disease.

    Life long Seahawks fan and moved to Northern California in 1981. Rooted for the 9ers in their 1st Super Bowl victory against the Bungles in Detroit’s Silverdome. Wayne was always easy to listen to and did a great job as an announcer. RIP, WW.

  13. Yes, it’s very obvious Wayne Walker’s long football career played a key role in his demise. And even though CTE wasn’t known about when he retired, Walker must have known those thousands of collisions weren’t beneficial to him down the road.

    It’s always sad when a good man passes after a long life, but many of these former NFL players have gone on record stating they’d do it all over again, even with the latest findings, or physical problems they’re having now.

  14. I remember him as a kid growing up in Detroit. Rock did player. Later in life a Navy Chief I worked with knew I was from Detroit and told me he and Wayne were from Boise, went to school together and we’re best friends. Never forgot that. RIP Wayne, thanks for the memories

  15. If you’re old enough, you remember the tremendous Lion’s defense of the sixties. They always played the Packers tough. Very competitive in games, even when their offense was terrible.

  16. Bluestree says:
    May 20, 2017 10:39 AM
    If you’re old enough, you remember the tremendous Lion’s defense of the sixties. They always played the Packers tough. Very competitive in games, even when their offense was terrible.

    _________________________________________

    Vince Lombardi’s best team was probably the 1962 team. They scored 415 points and allowed only 148. They lost only one game that year — on Thanksgiving to the Lions, 26 to 14, and beat the great NY Giants 16 to 7 in cold and windy Yankee Stadium to win the NFL Championship.
    The Lions had a great defense in the early 60’s, without question.

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