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Chris Mortensen dies: NFL reporter for ESPN was 72

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Chris Mortensenan award-winning veteran journalist for ESPN, died Sunday morning, the channel announced. He was 72 years old and no cause was given, but he battled cancer during his life.

“Mort was widely respected as an industry pioneer and universally loved as a supportive and hard-working teammate,” ESPN Chairman 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 be truly missed by his colleagues and fans, and our hearts and thoughts go out to his beloved.

Mortensen took a leave of absence from ESPN in 2016 after being diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer, which later spread to his lungs. He left ESPN in 2023 after joining the network in 1991.

“An absolutely devastating day,” wrote ESPN’s Adam Schefter on X. “Mort was one of the greatest journalists in sports history, and an even better man. Sincere condolences to his family and all those who knew and loved him. Many did. Mort was the best. He will be forever missed and remembered.

Mortensen was a regular contributor to ESPN’s NFL broadcasts and Sports center. His scoops included the news in 2016 that Peyton Manning was retiring from the NFL.

In 2016, he received the Dick McCann Award from the Pro Football Writers of America and was honored at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony in August of that year.

Earlier in his career, he wrote for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (1983 to 1990), covering the Falcons, Braves and NFL, and won the George Polk Award in 1987 for his reporting. He was also one of the first writers hired by sports daily editor Frank Deford. The National, working there from 1989 to 1990 before joining ESPN.

He was also a columnist for The Sporting News, a contributor to Sport magazine and a consultant for CBS Sports’ “NFL Today” (1990).

Mortensen began his reporting career in California at the South Bay’s Daily Breeze in 1969 and won the National Headliner Award for investigative reporting in all categories. He has received 18 journalism awards and been nominated for two Pulitzer Prizes during his career.

Mortensen is survived by his wife, Micki, and his son, Alex. No memorial plans have been announced.

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