Kathie Lee Gifford, widow of Frank Gifford, says NFL legend 'was dying long before he died'

Frank Gifford is widely regarded as one of the best players in NFL history. He was a six-time All-Pro, spent his entire career with the New York Giants and is a member of the team’s Ring of Honor.

Gifford died of natural causes at his Connecticut home in 2015 at the age of 84.

The Pro Football Hall of Famer’s family previously said signs of the degenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) were discovered in his brain following his death.

Longtime television personality Kathie Lee Gifford, along with her and Gifford’s son Cody, shared some details about their experiences with Frank in their last days together.

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Kathie Lee Gifford and Frank Gifford, seen here in 2008, were married nearly 30 years and had two children. (Richard Corkery)

Kathie Lee and Cody spoke to People ahead of the commercial release of the documentary “Requiem for a Running Back.”

“The NFL gave my father a life,” Cody told People. “But, at the same time, there were dangers.”

WHAT IS CTE?

Gifford’s son recalled one of the final nights he spent with him, saying “in the span of one minute or two minutes … he had forgotten everything I had just said.”

Frank Gifford moved to the broadcasting booth shortly after he retired from the NFL. In the 1980s he became one of the most recognizable voices of “Monday Night Football,” handling play-by-play duties for the 1985 Super Bowl between the San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins.

Kathie Lee Gifford and her family pose for a photograph

Kathie Lee Gifford, Cody, Cassidy and Frank Gifford.  (Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)

“Requiem for a Running Back” tells the story of former football star Lewis Carpenter. Following Lewis’ death, his brain was donated to researchers, who determined he had an advanced form of CTE. Gifford appears in the documentary.

The film is now available on Amazon Prime Video and various other streaming services. Kathie Lee and Cody are hopeful the commercial release of the documentary will increase awareness about CTE.

FROM OUTKICK: FIRST PROFESSIONAL FEMALE ATHLETE DIAGNOSED WITH CTE

The Boston University CTE Center has heavily researched the disease and describes it as “a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes (and others) with a history of repetitive brain trauma, including symptomatic concussions as well as asymptomatic non-concussive hits to the head.”

Kathie Lee says her late husband’s brain scan left an unforgettable impact.

Kathie Lee Gifford and son Cody pose for a photo

Kathie Lee Gifford and son Cody Gifford April 5, 2019. (Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal)

“It was heartbreaking to look at it,” she told People. ” We found damage to the hippocampus, which is the center for short-term memory. … It’s the cumulative aggregate blows that you take over a lifetime.”

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Cody had a brief run with football when he was a USC Trojans walk-on, but an ankle injury derailed his playing career. He said he is much more aware of some of the risks that can come with playing football.

“It’s an intoxicating thing if you grow up loving football your entire life,” he says. “I lived it and breathed it. It’s hard to walk away.”

Chantz Martin is a sports writer for Fox News Digital.

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