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Ex-punter Dave Jennings dies at 61

NEW YORK -- Dave Jennings, perhaps the New York Giants' best punter ever, died on Wednesday morning after a long bout with Parkinson's disease.

Jennings, who turned 61 on June 8, had suffered from Parkinson's since 1996.

"Dave Jennings was one of the all-time great Giants," said Giants co-owner and team president John Mara in a team release. "He was a valued member of the Giants family for more than 30 years as a player and a broadcaster, and we were thrilled to include him in our Ring of Honor. More importantly, he was an outstanding person who battled his illness with rare courage and dignity. We will miss him dearly."

Jennings also played for the New York Jets. He was a four-time Pro Bowler with the Giants from 1974-84 and owns the franchise records for punts (931) and yards (38,792). Jennings punted for 4,000 yards or more in a season from 1979-81 and recorded a career-best 44.8-yard average in 1980.

"The Giants were not very good when Dave and I were teammates in the 1970s," linebacker Harry Carson said in a statement. "Dave was one of the few bright lights on those teams as a punter."

"Dave was very serious about conditioning," Carson later added. "He was the punter, but he was in great shape. He was a fantastic athlete."

"Dave could have participated in different sports, but he had punting down to a science," Carson continued. "He could position the ball where he wanted it to go. He had a terrific sense of placement. He took his job very seriously and he made it his own little science to punt the ball where it needed to be."

Jennings punted for the Jets from 1985-87 and was a radio commentator for the team from 1988-2001. Jennings joined the Giants' radio booth in 2002.

"Dave was always a guy that I admired from afar, and when we had an opportunity to add him to the Giants' broadcast team –- when John Mara brought him back to the Giants family -– it was a treat to work with Dave," said Giants play-by-play man Bob Papa. "He was meticulous in his preparation and Dave was a leader in rules interpretations. Dave knew all the rules. Whenever something came up, you could always turn to Dave and you knew he would get the rule correct and that was going to serve the audience best."

Jennings, who born on June 8, 1952, in New York City, was inducted into the Giants' second Ring of Honor class in 2011.

"Dave is and always will be a Giants' Giant," said co-owner Steve Tisch. "He lived his life with class and dignity, and he was the ultimate professional as a player and commentator."

"He was a great person," said former Jets defensive lineman Marty Lyons, an ex-teammate. "He didn't say a lot. He kept most of his feelings bundled up. As a punter, he had that long stride, almost a Ray Guy kind of follow-through."

Lyons said he last saw Jennings a few years ago at the old Giants Stadium, where they had lunch together in the press lounge. By then, Jennings' disease was at an advanced stage.

"My heart just broke," Lyons said. "You saw a former teammate, a guy who was so healthy, and now he was fighting this terrible disease. All you can say is, he's in a better place now. With all the suffering he endured, fighting that disease, you've got to know that his heart is in a better place."