Tributes pour in as ESPN journalist, NFL reporter Chris Mortensen dies at 72 - Hindustan Times
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Tributes pour in as ESPN journalist, NFL reporter Chris Mortensen dies at 72: ‘We lost a true legend’

BySumanti Sen
Mar 04, 2024 09:59 AM IST

Last year, Chris Mortensen announced his retirement after the NFL draft so he could "focus on my health, family and faith

Award-winning journalist Chris Mortensen, who covered the NFL for nearly four decades, died on Sunday morning, March 3, at the age of 72. His death was confirmed by ESPN, but the cause of death was not immediately disclosed.

In a photo supplied by ESPN, Chris Mortensen appears on the set of Sunday NFL Countdown at ESPN's studios in Bristol, Conn., on Sept. 22, 2019 (ESPN via AP)(AP)
In a photo supplied by ESPN, Chris Mortensen appears on the set of Sunday NFL Countdown at ESPN's studios in Bristol, Conn., on Sept. 22, 2019 (ESPN via AP)(AP)

"Mort was widely respected as an industry pioneer and universally beloved as a supportive, hardworking teammate," ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro said in a statement. “He covered the NFL with extraordinary skill and passion, and was at the top of his field for decades. He will truly be missed by colleagues and fans, and our hearts and thoughts are with his loved ones.”

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When Chris Mortensen was diagnosed with throat cancer

Back in 2016, Mortensen announced that he was diagnosed with throat cancer. He confirmed the retirement of Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning while he was already undergoing treatment.

Manning wrote in an Instagram post, “Heartbroken. We lost a true legend. Mort was the best in the business and I cherished our friendship. I trusted him with my announcement to sign with the Broncos and with the news of my retirement. I will miss him dearly and my thoughts and prayers are with Micki & his family. Rest in peace, Mort.”

Last year, Mortensen announced his retirement after the NFL draft so he could "focus on my health, family and faith." NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said during the end of coverage at the NFL Scouting Combine on Sunday, he got a text from Mortensen. Mortensen asked him how he thought Spencer Rattler would do during the Indianapolis quarterback workouts.

"He's just one of the sweetest souls you will have ever met, and he loved his sport," Jeremiah said. "That's why when we found out about this, the last thing I want to do is come out here. But, man, he would punch me in the face if we didn't if we didn't do this and have fun and enjoy this great game that he loved so much."

Mortensen, who joined ESPN in 1991, received the Dick McCann Award from the Professional Football Writers of America in 2016. In 2021, it was renamed to the Bill Nunn Jr. Award.

"I admired how hard Chris worked to become one of the most influential and revered reporters in sports. He earned our respect and that of many others with his relentless pursuit of news but also with the kindness he extended to everyone he met," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "He will be greatly missed by many of us in the league who were fortunate to know him well beyond the stories he broke each Sunday."

‘One of the greatest reporters in sports history’

Morten worked for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from 1983-89, covering the Atlanta Falcons from 1985-86 and the league from 1985-89. He later worked for The National for nearly two years. He also worked as an NFL columnist for The Sporting News and a contributing writer for Sport magazine. He was a consultant for CBS' "The NFL Today" in 1990.

Mortensen attended El Camino College. He was a native of Torrance, California. Before the beginning of his journalism career, he served two years in the Army. Mortensen is survived by his wife, Micki, and son, Alex.

ESPN NFL reporter Adam Schefter wrote on X, “An absolutely devastating day. Mort was one of the greatest reporters in sports history, and an even better man. Sincerest condolences to his family, and all who knew and loved him. So many did. Mort was the very best. He will be forever missed and remembered.”

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