NEW YORK — Ed Schultz, the college football announcer turned liberal commentator who hosted “The Ed Show” for six years on MSNBC, died Thursday. He was 64.

Schultz died of natural causes at his home in Washington, where he started his media career in the early 1980s. He had most recently worked at RT America, the Russian-based television news network distributed on cable and the internet in the U.S.

Schultz was born in Norfolk, Va. He moved to the Fargo area to play football for Minnesota State University. He signed as a free agent with the Oakland Raiders and tried out for the New York Jets and the Canadian Football League’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers before giving up his football aspirations for a career in broadcasting.

After developing a reputation as a raucous play-by-play announcer for North Dakota State University football, Schultz became a conservative talk show host for AM radio station WDAY in 1992.

By the end of the 1990s, Schultz’s politics became more liberal, a transition he attributed to his second wife, Wendy Noack, a psychiatric nurse who worked in a Fargo homeless shelter. She exposed him to the struggles faced by the homeless in their town, many of whom were military veterans.

Even after becoming a Democrat, Schultz maintained his on-air image as a proudly bombastic Midwesterner. In 2004, when he first emerged as a national radio personality, he was known as “Big Eddie” and described himself to the Los Angeles Times as a “gun-toting, meat-eating leftie.”

Schultz’s program became a liberal alternative for AM radio stations when they became the home of mostly conservative political hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. His program went national in 2004 and was carried on XM satellite radio.

As Schultz became more popular, he was courted by Democratic politicians, including Hillary Clinton, because of his ability to connect with the heartland audience that had become more elusive for the party.

In 2009, Schultz made the jump to television as the host of “The Ed Show” on MSNBC, which had been moving to politically left-leaning talk in prime time. The show ran in prime time until 2013 when he was replaced by Chris Hayes in the 8 p.m. Eastern hour. Schultz’s program aired on weekends and then daytime until it ended in 2015.

Schultz joined RT America in 2016, where he hosted its nightly newscast and special event coverage.