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Chris Gedney, Syracuse legend and former NFL tight end, dies at age 47

Chris Gedney made Syracuse’s all-century team and was the school’s color commentator for football games the past 11 seasons. (Photo courtesy of Syracuse University)

He was the high school hero who stayed home to star for his local college team. He was the NFL star who gave back enough to be a finalist for NFL Man of the Year Award. He was the former NFL player who kept giving back to his alma mater, working in fundraising and doing color commentary for games on the radio.

Former star tight end Chris Gedney died at age 47, Syracuse University announced on Friday night. Syracuse athletic director John Wildhack said in a statement: “We are shocked and deeply saddened by the passing of Chris Gedney. Chris was a wonderful co-worker, a friend to all and deeply loyal to Syracuse University and our community.”

No cause of death was immediately announced. According to his Syracuse bio, Gedney resides in the Westhill school district in the Syracuse area and has four children – Annaleigh, Chase, Montanna and Ellianna.

“It’s just shocking, upsetting and tough,” former Syracuse football coach Doug Marrone, who is now the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, said in a phone interview on Friday night. “Obviously, he was just a great person. He was someone that loved Syracuse football, loved his children and was committed to the community, committed to his teammates and friends.”

Gedney cut out a stellar career as an All-American tight end at Syracuse who lettered for the Orange from 1989-1992. He was a consensus All-American who played for both Dick MacPherson and Paul Pasqualoni and was named to the school’s all-century team.

Gedney played six seasons in the NFL for the Chicago Bears and Arizona Cardinals. He finished his pro career with 83 catches, eight touchdowns and 914 total receiving yards.

The death will send shockwaves through the close-knit Syracuse University community, where Gedney starred as a player and served as an ambassador and conduit for former players through his job as a senior associate athletic director and radio color commentator.

“He was a fixture,” said former Syracuse star quarterback Don McPherson in a phone interview on Friday night. “He’s from the community. He did radio. He was steady, he was a steady guy. If I could say anything about him, it was never about Chris Gedney. It was always about Syracuse University, Coach Mac and the legacy of the program.”

For the past 11 seasons, Gedney served as the color commentator for Syracuse football games. He was an unabashed homer, known for folksy lines like, “It’s like eating cotton candy in the rain. You just can’t do it.”

His broadcast partner, Matt Park, recalled his passion for the sport.

“He was always having fun,” Park said. “If we happened to be in a stadium where the radio booth was next door to the coach’s booth, after a good play, he’d pound on the coach’s booth [window] as a way to say, ‘Way to go, guys!’”

Chris Gedney (84) played six NFL seasons, three with the Arizona Cardinals, after starring at Syracuse University. (AP)

As an extension of his job in the athletic department, Gedney looked out for a generation of Syracuse players. “He was buddies with the people he played with and people who played in previous eras,” Park said. “I think he did a lot of, more than I know, looking out for the younger guys. It was as big of a deal for him that a fairly recent grad got his first significant job or raise or promotion.”

When Marrone coached at Syracuse from 2009 through 2012, he recalled Gedney as a fixture of support. “I remember specific times we weren’t playing well or doing well,” Marrone said. “He was the guy to pick you up and push you forward and say, ‘We’ll be fine.’”

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