SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Former NFL star and longtime KPIX 5 Sports Director Wayne Walker died at age 80 following a battle with Parkinson’s disease.
Walker had spent the last two decades living in his hometown of Boise, Idaho after retiring from KPIX in 1994.
After starring at the University of Idaho, he played 15 seasons for the Detroit Lions from 1958 to 1972 at linebacker and place kicker and was a three-time Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection.
Walker joined KPIX in 1974 and spent 20 years at the station. He also was a commentator on local San Francisco 49ers radio broadcasts for many years and on televised regional NFL games for CBS.
Walker also hosted a weekly program called “49ers Preview” on KPIX and it was evident players on the team felt comfortable opening up to the former NFL player.
“I think one of the things that happens so many times with athletes … is that somebody has an agenda in most cases, so they’re looking for something that fits into their agenda,” said former 49ers Hall of Famer Joe Montana. “And I don’t think Wayne had an agenda … He was always on the up and up with it.”
“And if there was something that needed to be talked about that probably he didn’t want to talk about, you could feel that in there, because he was on the other side of that a lot,” added Montana. “So I think he had a great understanding of the things that take place that make most athletes a little cautious when you start talking … And so you get so guarded, immediately. And, you know, you never had that with Wayne.”
In 2015, Walker revealed he was battling Parkinson’s disease and blamed the multiple concussions he suffered during NFL games.
“I would get up after a lot of plays, after a collision of some sort – usually with your head – and I would look like I was looking through a frosted glass for a while,” said Walker in 2015.
Walker said he had at least 20 concussions over the 200 games he played, and was knocked out cold twice. “I got knocked out totally and went back in the same game,” he said.
Detroit Lions owner and chairman Martha Firestone Ford issued a statement Friday extending the team’s condolences to Walker’s family. “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,” she said.
Walker is survived by his wife Sylvia, sons Steve and Doug and daughter Kathy, along with eight grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements were pending.
Carlos E. Castañeda is Senior Editor, News & Social Media for CBS San Francisco and a San Francisco native. You can follow him on Twitter or send him an email.