Fernando Von Rossum selected to receive Ralph Hay Pioneer Award from Hall of Fame

NFL Published on : 6/18/2024
  • Trailblazing announcer introduced millions of fans to ‘American Football’ with Spanish-language TV broadcasts

Fernando Von Rossum, widely considered as the most important and influential Spanish-language announcer of National Football League games, will receive the coveted Ralph Hay Pioneer Award from the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer.Fernando Von Rossum, widely considered as the most important and influential Spanish-language announcer of National Football League games, will receive the coveted Ralph Hay Pioneer Award from the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer.

Von Rossum, who called his first professional football game more than 60 years ago, was a longtime fixture on Televisa, a dominant media organization in Latin America, for much of his illustrious half-century career. Later, he worked with TV Azteca and FOX Sports. He is credited with introducing the sport of “American football” to millions of novice fans through a mixture of patient teaching of the game and its unusual verbiage and rules, with a deeply held passion for the National Football League and its product.

“The selection of Fernando as a Ralph Hay Pioneer Award winner could not be more fitting,” Hall President Jim Porter said. “He is the true definition of a pioneer – someone who went where no one had gone before. He took a game that was totally foreign to most of his television audience and helped build the National Football League’s presence in Mexico to a point that international games became part of the country’s sports landscape. This is a richly deserved honor earned through decades of dedication to the game and its fans.”

The Ralph Hay Pioneer Award, named for the former owner of the Canton Bulldogs who hosted the NFL’s formational meeting in Canton in 1920, was established in 1972. It is presented in recognition of “significant innovative contributions to professional football.”

Since its inception, the Pioneer Award has been presented only 10 other times. The first recipient was Fred Gehrke, the Los Angeles Rams halfback who devised the idea of a helmet logo in 1948. The “Forgotten Four” – Marion Motley, Woody Strode, Kenny Washington and Bill Willis – were the most recent winners, in 2022. The four men reintegrated pro football in 1946 after the game was devoid of Black players for 13 seasons.

“You shock me,” Von Rossum said when informed of his selection for the Pioneer Award. “I live with words, but they escape me at this moment.”

Von Rossum will be the Hall’s guest in Canton this August to receive the award as part of the Enshrinees’ Gold Jacket Dinner program Aug. 2. It will be his second visit to the city.

“One time I was in Canton – after a broadcast in Cleveland,” he noted. “It was awesome to feel the history inside” the Hall of Fame.

Von Rossum helped shape the history of the game through his decades behind a microphone. His love and appreciation of the game came from his father, who had lived in Texas and played football before moving to Mexico. Fernando began watching broadcasts of American Football League games and – believing he could improve upon the broadcasting – arranged an audition at the Monterrey television station that carried them.

He soon was hired. His first game as a paid announcer came Oct. 20, 1963: the Buffalo Bills at the Houston Oilers. What followed were an estimated 2,500 broadcasts that influenced not only generations of fans, but also generations of future Spanish-language broadcasters – in pro football and other sports – who saw him as their mentor.

Early in his career, Von Rossum realized “the audience did not know the game, that you had to explain the game,” he said in a 2021 interview. By his third and fourth seasons of NFL announcing, he had established and spread the Spanish-language football vocabulary, “so it could be more easily understood.”

Terms like mariscal de campo (quarterback), ala cerrada (tight end), apoyador (linebacker), esquinero (cornerback) and profundo (safety) became the common nomenclature that other broadcasters adopted as the standard for calling games to Spanish-speaking audiences.

“His greatness lies in how he evolved his call throughout three generations of fans,” said Álvaro Martín, a protégé who has worked for ESPN Deportes and NBA League Pass. “Those who heard him in the 1970s had a very different level of knowledge of the game than those who enjoyed him in the 21st century, but his voice never lost any relevance because he adapted to the moment – a trait found in legendary talents.”


2022 – Marion Motley, Woody Strode, Kenny Washington and Bill Willis: Reintegrated pro football after a 13-season absence of Black players in the game.

2016 – Joe Browne: Worked for over 50 years at the NFL, turning it into the most popular sport in the world. 

2012 – Art McNally: Devoted his entire professional career to officiating and pioneered numerous innovations for the NFL including instant replay.

2007 – Steve Sabol: President of NFL Films and honored filmmaker.

2004 – City of Pottsville, Pennsylvania: Loyal support of the NFL and undying spirit and pride in the history of the defunct Pottsville Maroons of the 1920s.

2001 – George Toma: NFL’s longtime head groundskeeper known as the “God of Sod.”

1992 – David Boss: Vice President and Creative Director for NFL Properties and noted photographer.

1986 – John Facenda: Legendary voice of NFL Films.

1975 – Arch Ward: Chicago Tribune sports editor who initiated Chicago All-Star Game that featured NFL champions vs. College All-Stars.

1972 – Fred Gehrke: Los Angeles Rams halfback who devised idea of logos on helmets and painted horns on Rams helmets in 1948.