NFL reporter Chris Mortensen dead at age 72

Mortensen formerly worked at the AJC from 1983-90
Long-time NFL reporter Chris Mortensen died Sunday morning at the age of 72, his family announced.

Credit: Photo provided

Credit: Photo provided

Long-time NFL reporter Chris Mortensen died Sunday morning at the age of 72, his family announced.

Award-winning journalist and NFL reporter Chris Mortensen died Sunday morning at the age of 72, his family announced.

The news was announced by ESPN, where Mortensen spent much of his career. Mortensen was formerly a reporter at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

A statement from ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro read: “Mort was widely respected as an industry pioneer and universally beloved as a supportive, hard-working teammate. 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.”

Mortensen worked the AJC from 1983-90. He covered the Braves (1983-85), the Falcons (1985-86) and the NFL (1987-89). He worked at The National from 1989-90. He started his career with the Daily Breeze newspaper in Torrance, California in 1969.

Mortensen joined ESPN in 1991 where he was a regular contributor to the network’s NFL coverage.

In 2016, he received as Pro Football Writers of America’s Dick McCann Award winner and was honored during the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s enshrinement ceremony that year.

The cause of death was not revealed.

Mortensen, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 throat cancer in January 2016, stepped away from his role at ESPN last year. He said at the time he would “focus on my health, family and faith.”

“Excited about another season but it’s time to reveal after my 33rd NFL draft in April, I made a decision to step away from ESPN and focus on my health, family and faith,” Mortensen posted on social media. “The gratitude and humility is overwhelming. It’s not a classic retirement. I’ll still be here talking ball. It’s just time. God Bless you all.”

Mortensen, a native of Torrance, California, was born on Nov. 7, 1951. He attended El Camino College before serving two years in the Army.

He is survived by his wife Micki and son Alex.

In a statement released by the Falcons, owner Arthur Blank said: “I join the immeasurable number of hearts across the nation, in journalism and the sports community, as we mourn Chris Mortensen. I’m grateful to have had the privilege of knowing Chris through his incredible work beginning at his days at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and like so many, being blessed by his professional excellence and personal grace through the many years that have followed. I considered Chris a personal hero of my mine and it is truly hard to imagine sports journalism without him. His ability to take on life’s obstacles with grit and determination was always truly inspiring and his enormous impact on so many, me included, will live on through this work and unwavering friendships. I send my deepest condolences to Chris’ family and friends, and pray they find peace in the honorable legacy and positive influence that Chris leaves behind.”

NFL reporter Daniel Jeremiah was moved to tears in discussing the death of Mortensen during the NFL Network’s broadcast of the NFL Scouting Combine on Sunday. Jeremiah, who considered Mortensen a mentor, said he texted with Mortensen on Saturday about how South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler would fare in the workout.

“He loved this game,” Jeremiah said.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter posted on social media following the news: “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.”