Throughout the offseason, 49ers.com will continue to chronicle members of the 49ers 10-Year Club. Check out our latest feature on former offensive lineman Randy Cross, who played for the team from 1976-1988.
Capable of playing center or guard, Randy Cross will always be remembered as one of the best interior linemen to ever wear the scarlet and gold San Francisco 49ers uniform.
Besides being outstanding at protecting the quarterback from both positions, Cross was also well-known as a pulling guard, who opened holes for 49ers running backs like Roger Craig and Wendell Tyler.
Cross, a three-time Pro Bowler and three-time Super Bowl Champion, spent 13 seasons on the 49ers, thus adding the 10-Year Club to his list of accolades.
“Look at the people who have gone on that wall; It’s not something that happens every year,” Cross said. “It’s an extremely special thing. It’s definitely one of those things you appreciate a lot more when you’re done than when you are playing.”
Now that he has had ample time to reflect on his playing days, Cross values the honor even more.
“The honor says an awful lot about your career, especially with a franchise like San Francisco. If you played that long for that kind of a team you’re guaranteed to have a pretty big impact not only on your team but on the NFL. That’s something to be extremely proud of,” he said.
An honor such as the 10-Year Club didn’t cross his mind as a rookie, because for starters, the wall didn’t even exist.
“When I was a rookie they didn’t have a wall. That came in later when Bill [Walsh] started much more of an appreciation for the history of the franchise and the contributions of the various people who have been there for a decade.”
Around that time, the career-life expectancy was much higher than the two-to-four year range that it is in the NFL currently.
“I think if you ask most players going in they’ll tell you they’re very aware of the number of the average career. Once you get over three or four years, it’s all pretty special. It flies by. You talk about your kids growing up in front of your eyes, but those ten years went by in a blur. It was a big deal. It’s a pretty small club of people, not only in San Francisco but around the league.”
Cross exited football after a storybook ending. In his final season, the 49ers defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 20-16, in a game that will forever be known for the final drive.
On that 11-play, 92-yard scoring drive, Cross helped supply protection for Joe Montana, allowing him to find John Taylor in the end zone with 34 seconds remaining to seal a Super Bowl win.
“It was perfect. It’s what you dream of being able to do when you’re a young kid growing up. That was something out of the movies, you didn’t get to go out with a Super Bowl as your final game.
“It was the perfect time to step away. It was kind of a special feeling to walk off that field and look around that stadium in Miami, soak it in because it was the last time I’d ever do it.”
To go with his three Super Bowl Championships, Cross has fond memories of several games from his career with the 49ers.
“The comeback game against New Orleans in 1980, when we came back from 28 points down at halftime,” Cross recalled immediately. “The NFC Championship game against Dallas with ‘The Catch’ and all that – that was memorable. All three of my Super Bowls were favorite memories. I have three kids too. You don’t pick a favorite kid and it’s the same when it comes to picking a favorite Super Bowl.”
Cross was well prepared for life after playing football. He had previously done radio work during his playing career, even announcing USFL games during the off-seasons, with the hopes of starting a post-football career in broadcasting.
“I had been sending tapes to the networks for probably my last four years, trying to see if I could make that a transition,” he said. “Initially my whole intention when it came to that was to have fun and stay close to the game.”
His preparation paid off. As of 2010, he has two decades of work as a color commentator under his belt for the likes of CBS and NBC. Now, Cross’ resume behind the microphone is almost as impressive as his career on the field. And just like his playing days, Cross remembers a number of games he called as memorable moments in his career.
“I’ve been involved in half a dozen Super Bowl broadcasts and quite a few playoff broadcasts. I think the Super Bowl I did for CBS radio, when the 49ers beat Denver bloody, that was a highlight,” Cross recalled.
Similar to his NFL career when he played alongside Hall of Famers, Cross has worked with some of the most well-known broadcasters in the business.
“That’s another lucky thing I’ve had, I’ve worked with the majority of the top-notch guys,” he said. “I’ve worked with everybody. I’ve worked with Dick Enberg, Dick Stockton, Marv Albert, Jim Nantz and Tom Hammond. I’ve had quite a few partners. A lot of them were legendary.”
Currently, Cross can be heard on his morning radio show on Sirius NFL radio. Cross also shares his thoughts with fans via his very own Twitter account. In all of his endeavors, Cross hopes his knowledge of the game is helpful and entertaining.
“I’m not sure you can have a style in broadcasting. It’s either something you can or can’t do. If you try to force it and create a shtick, it gets old pretty fast,” he said. “I always thought from the beginning when I want to listen to a game I want to listen to two guys at the bar having fun talking about the game who might know a little bit more than me about the game and about the players.”
When he’s not talking football, Cross can usually be found on the golf course, testing his competitive nature, which hasn’t scaled back much since his playing days. With his self-described, “predominant recreational activity,” Cross has been able to remain competitive.
“I still love to do that,” he said. “I had a shoulder replaced a couple of years ago, which limited the amount of time I could play, but I can still play fairly well. I can shoot in the high 70’s low 80’s. It’s not bad for a one-legged fat guy.”
While his golf game might leave something to be desired, his NFL playing career did not.
And whether he’s on the golf course or in the broadcasting booth, Cross has been able to keep himself occupied. As a member of the 49ers 10-Year Club, he’ll be kept forever among the greatest 49ers of all-time.
When people see his plaque on the 10-Year Club, they’ll forever remember one of the most versatile and durable offensive linemen to ever play in the West Coast offense.