Chris Mortensen, longtime ESPN NFL reporter, dead at 72: 'One of the sweetest souls'

Peter Sblendorio, New York Daily News on

Published in Football

Chris Mortensen, the plugged-in NFL insider whose dogged reporting made him a staple of ESPN’s football coverage, died Sunday, the network announced, citing his family.

Mortensen, who was 72, was diagnosed with Stage 4 throat cancer in 2016.

“Mort was widely respected as an industry pioneer and universally beloved as a supportive, hard-working teammate,” said ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro.

“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.”

A reporter for more than five decades, Mortensen worked for ESPN from 1991 until his retirement last year. He was known for his regular appearances on ESPN shows such as “SportsCenter,” “Sunday NFL Countdown” and “Monday NFL Countdown.”


Born in Torrance, Calif., in Los Angeles County, Mortensen got his start with his hometown newspaper, the Daily Breeze, before moving on to outlets including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Sporting News. He was nominated for two Pulitzer Prizes and won 18 journalism awards in his career, according to ESPN.

“An absolutely devastating day,” fellow ESPN football insider Adam Schefter wrote on X. “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.”

In an emotional address Sunday from the scouting combine, NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah described Mortensen as his “mentor” and one of his best friends, and said he was thinking about Mortensen’s wife, Miki, and son, Alex.

“He’s just one of the sweetest souls you will have ever met, and he loved this sport,” Rich Eisen added.

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