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Award-winning writer Chris Mortensen, who covered the NFL for ESPN for more than thirty years, passed away early on Sunday morning at the age of seventy-two, according to his family.

After joining ESPN in 1991, Mortensen became a frequent contributor to “SportsCenter” and the NFL broadcasts on the network. He often broke stories for ESPN, such as the 2016 NFL retirement announcement of quarterback Peyton Manning.

He was recognized at the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s enshrinement ceremony in August of 2016 and won the Dick McCann Award from the Pro Football Writers of America.
Jimmy Pitaro, the chairman of ESPN, stated in a statement that “Mort was widely respected as an industry pioneer and universally beloved as a supportive, hard-working teammate.” “He was at the top of his profession for decades, covering the NFL with incredible talent and devotion. Colleagues and admirers alike will really miss him, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Longtime coworker of Mortensen’s on ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown,” Adam Schefter of ESPN, posted on social media, describing the day as “absolutely devastating.” In addition to being a fantastic reporter, Mort was also a wonderful person. My deepest sympathies go out to his family and everyone he knew and loved. So many of them did. The finest was Mort. He will always be remembered and missed.”

“To focus on my health, family, and faith,” Mortensen said in a statement that he left his position at ESPN last year. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 throat cancer in January 2016.

“During ESPN’s early years, Mort contributed to setting the bar for journalism. According to a statement from Norby Williamson, executive editor and director of studio production for ESPN, “His credibility, attention to detail, and reporting skills catapulted our news and information to a new level.” Above all, he was an excellent human being and teammate. He embodied the kindness and consideration for others that later permeated ESPN’s culture.”

With Mortensen’s passing, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell declared it a “sad day for everyone in the NFL.”

In a statement, Goodell added, “I admired how hard Chris worked to become one of the most influential and revered reporters in sports.” “He won the respect of many people, including ourselves, for his unwavering pursuit of news and his friendliness to everyone he encountered. Many of us in the league who had the good fortune to get to know him outside of the stories he broke every Sunday will miss him terribly.

“We send our condolences to his family, his colleagues and the many people Chris touched throughout his well-lived life.”

Manning said on Instagram that he was “heartbroken” to learn of Mortensen’s passing.

In his message, Manning stated, “We lost a true legend.” “I loved our relationship, and Mort was the greatest in the industry. I confided in him when I told him I was retiring and going to sign with the Broncos. I’ll miss him terribly, and Micki and his family are in my thoughts and prayers. Mort, rest in peace.”

Prior to joining ESPN, Mortensen covered the Falcons, Braves, and NFL as a writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (1983–1990). For his reporting, he was honored with the George Polk Award in 1987. Prior to joining ESPN, he worked as one of the first journalists employed by editor Frank Deford at the sports daily The National, where he was employed from 1989 to 1990.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank released a statement saying, “I join the immeasurable number of hearts across the nation, in journalism and the sports community, as we mourn Chris Mortensen.” “I am appreciative that I was able to get to know Chris throughout his amazing tenure at the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Like many others, I have been fortunate to benefit from his exceptional work and kind demeanor over the years. I regarded Chris as a personal hero, and I can hardly see the world of sports writing functioning without him.


His tenacity and will in facing life’s challenges were always really inspirational, and his profound influence on many others, myself included, will endure via his work and enduring friendships. I hope Chris’s friends and family find comfort in his noble legacy and uplifting impact. My sincerest sympathies go out to them.”

In addition, Mortensen contributed to Sport magazine, wrote columns for The Sporting News, and served as a consultant for “NFL Today” on CBS Sports (1990).

“Chris will always be a member of the NFL team. In a statement, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones stated, “Loved by so many, he was a brilliant voice for the game and as passionate and talented as there has ever been.” “He will be deeply missed and we’re grateful for the special memories and legacy Chris leaves us.”

Mortensen started his journalistic career in 1969 with the Daily Breeze in South Bay, California. In 1978, he was the recipient of the National Headliner Award for investigative reporting in all categories. Throughout his career, he was nominated for two Pulitzer Prizes and won eighteen journalistic prizes.

In addition, he wrote the book “Playing for Keeps: How One Man Stopped the Mob from Sinking its Hooks into Pro Football.”

Born on November 7, 1951, Mortensen is a native of Torrance, California. After completing two years of Army service, he attended El Camino College.

His son Alex and wife Micki survive him.

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