Chris Mortensen, Veteran ESPN NFL Reporter, Dies at 72

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Chris Mortensen, an award-winning journalist who reported on the NFL for ESPN for decades, died Sunday. He was 72.

Mortensen’s family confirmed the news to ESPN. While a cause of death was not revealed, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 throat cancer in January 2016.

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“Mort was widely respected as an industry pioneer and universally beloved as a supportive, hard-working teammate,” Jimmy Pitaro, chairman of ESPN, said in a statement posted on X/Twitter. “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.”

After joining the network in 1991, Mortensen reported on the NFL for ESPN for over 30 years. He was a regular contributor to ESPN’s NFL shows and “SportsCenter.” Mortensen regularly broke news for ESPN, such as Peyton Manning retiring from the NFL in 2016. That same year, he received the Pro Football Writers of America’s Dick McCann Award and was honored during the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s enshrinement ceremony. In 2023, Mortensen stepped away from his role at ESPN to focus on his “health, family and faith.”

Prior to ESPN, Mortensen wrote for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from 1983 to 1990, where he covered the Falcons, Braves and the NFL. He won the George Polk Award in 1987 for his reporting. Mortensen was also one of the first writers hired at The National, the sports daily he worked at from 1989 to 1990. Additionally, he was a columnist for The Sporting News, a contributor to Sport magazine and a consultant with CBS Sports “NFL Today.”

Throughout his career, he received 18 journalism awards and two Pulitzer Prize nominations. Starting as a journalist at the South Bay Daily Breeze in 1969, he won the National Headliner Award for investigative reporting in all categories in 1978. A Torrance, Calif., native, Mortensen attended El Camino College before serving two years in the Army.

Mortensen is survived by his wife Micki and son Alex.

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