There was not a more respected player, more cherished sportsman or more venerable broadcaster than the man who was just taken from us.

College Football Hall of Famer. Pro Football Hall of Famer. Legendary television announcer who reached generations of sports fans who never got to see him play, yet still recognized his name, his voice, his sense of decency and his fair-minded outlook.

Frank Gifford was all of that, a man who came to New York in 1952 as the “golden boy” halfback and flanker from USC, then transfixed Giants fans with his dazzling moves and a magnetic personality that positively glowed from atop the country’s biggest sports stage.

An eight-time Pro Bowler and four-time first-team All-Pro, Gifford was the iconic player for a storied franchise at a time when the NFL’s popularity began to mushroom into the most popular sport in America. He played before the introduction of color television, when Giants fans had to travel to the Polo Grounds or Yankee Stadium to see him for home games, and had to adjust the rabbit ears on their television sets to make out Gifford and his storied team on snowy picture screens.

He had one of the greatest seasons ever by a Giants player in 1956, winning the NFL’s Most Valuable Player Award with 1,422 scrimmage yards and a combined nine rushing and receiving touchdowns. The Giants would win the NFL title that year over the Chicago Bears. It would be Gifford’s only championship season, but he went on to play several more seasons at a level rarely seen by running backs of his era.

One of the most versatile players of his day, Gifford also played defensive back and flanker in addition to halfback, and was selected for Pro Bowl honors at all three positions.

Of course, the play he may be most associated with is that nasty hit he took in the 1960 season from Eagles linebacker Chuck Bednarik, who laid him out on a passing play and prompted him to retire. But Gifford made a celebrated comeback in 1962, switching to flanker and had a combined 110 catches and 17 touchdowns over his next three seasons before retiring for good after the 1964 season.

Giants president John Mara, who grew up watching Gifford and those great old Giants teams presided over by his father, the late president and co-owner Wellington Mara, put it best when he referred to Gifford as “the ultimate Giant. He was the face of our franchise for many years.”

Mara said his father “loved him like a son and was proud to act as his presenter for the Pro Football Hall of Fame” in 1977. Gifford presented Wellington Mara for his Hall of Fame induction 22 years later.

Future generations of football fans would come to know Gifford in a different, yet no less memorable way. As a broadcaster who developed a smooth style and blended easily with the more strident voices around him – including the cantankerous Howard Cosell – Gifford shared with us his formidable football knowledge. He was an easy listen, a person who built a level of trust rarely seen in such a high-profile position.

He was the straight man for Cosell and “Dandy” Don Meredith, whose commentary on “Monday Night Football” was some of the best in broadcasting history. Cosell was the opinion man with the unforgettable voice and inflection, and Meredith was the folksy, down-home ex-quarterback who told it from the players’ point of view. But Gifford was the glue for that broadcasting team and the others that came after.

There was a presence about the man, on television and in person. After his broadcasting career was over, he was often seen at Giants headquarters and on game day at Giants Stadium and then MetLife. Dressed in faded blue jeans and a navy blue sports jacket, Gifford had the look of a former player and carried himself with grace and humility.

“He had the handshake of a 25-year-old, and he looked you right in the eye with his big blue eyes,” Giants co-owner Steve Tisch said. “He was such a strong person in every way. He will be missed and will always be remembered as a Giant’s Giant.”

The team will surely have a more formal send-off for their unforgettable star, a chance for fans to say goodbye one last time to a man whose unique blend of talent, style and sophistication will not soon be forgotten.

RIP to one of the all-time greats.