Frank Newton Gifford was born to Weldon Wayne and Lola Mae (Hawkins) Gifford on August 16, 1930 in Santa Monica, California. He was the younger brother of Winona and Waine Gifford. Because of the unsteady work that Weldon Gifford found as an itinerant laborer in the oil fields of the Southwest, the Giffords and their three children were constantly relocating. In his autobiography The Whole Ten Yards, Gifford recalled that his mother once counted forty-seven different places that the family had lived during her youngest son's childhood.
The uncertain nature of his father's work meant that Gifford grew up in near-poverty and the constant moves never allowed him to stay in one school for an entire year until he was in high school. Frustrated by his poor
academic performance, Gifford became a habitual truant after enrolling at Bakersfield High School in Bakersfield, California. After joining the school's football team as a quarterback, however, Gifford paid more attention to his studies, an accomplishment he credited to the guidance of his coach, Homer Beatty. After completing his secondary education in 1948, Gifford spent a year at Bakersfield Junior College to muster enough academic credits to enter the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, where he had been offered a football scholarship. Still on academic probation during his first year at USC, Gifford violated the Pacific Coast Conference rules against practicing with the team, a violation that resulted in a $2,500 fine against USC.