Chris Mortensen tributes pour in from Peyton Manning, others in NFL world: ‘Heartbroken’


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The NFL lost one of its longtime reporters on Sunday as ESPN announced that Chris Mortensen, who has been with them since 1991, died at 72 years old. 

The loss is one that the league is mourning after Mortensen worked more than three decades covering the NFL. Mortensen was an award-winning journalist, most notably receiving the Pro Football Writers of America‘s Dick McCann Award in 2016. 

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

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Chris Mortensen looks on field

Analyst Chris Mortensen (Kevin C. Cox/AAF/Getty Images/File)

Many people who met Mortensen offered their condolences on social media, including Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, who has been his colleague with ESPN as well.

“Heartbroken,” Manning wrote in his Instagram post in which he showed photos of him with Mortensen. “We lost a true legend. Mort was the best in the business and I cherished our friendship. I trusted him with my announcement to sign with the Broncos and with the news of my retirement. I will miss him dearly and my thoughts and prayers are with Micki & his family. Rest in peace, Mort.”

ESPN NFL REPORTER CHRIS MORTENSEN DEAD AT 72

Adam Schefter, ESPN’s NFL insider, has always had a close relationship with Mortensen. After all, he’s always been in his X profile picture. 

“An absolutely devastating day,” he 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.”

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay also shared his thoughts on the loss. 

Chris Mortensen in 2006

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, right, is shown on the ESPN set with Chris Mortensen at FedExField in Washington, D.C., on Sep. 11, 2006. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

“Another great one has left us,” Irsay posted. “So sad to hear of Chris Mortensen’s passing. Mort was a dear friend, and an award-winning legend. My heart goes out to his family.” 

NFL Network’s Rich Eisen and Daniel Jeremiah, who has been very public about the mentorship he got from Mortensen, were broadcasting the NFL Scouting Combine when the news broke. 

Jeremiah revealed he was just texting Mortensen on Saturday. 

“He texted me yesterday,” Jeremiah said as he held back tears. “He wanted to know how [Spencer] Rattler was doing in the workout. So, we talked about Rattler, we were texting back and forth yesterday. He loved this game.”

“I just want to look at the camera and tell Micki, his wife, and Alex, his son, that every time I talked to Mort, you guys came up because he was so proud of you. He loves you so much. You’re always in his heart. You’re always on his mind. He was a sweet, sweet person with a sweet family. That’s who I’m thinking about right now.”

Eisen added, “I met Chris Mortensen when I was 26 years old when he was the G.O.A.T. in the making for the ‘Worldwide Leader in Sports’ at ESPN. He was one of the best football reporters that we’ve ever known. He was so nice to me, so welcoming to me when I first got there.”

More condolences and prayers from around the NFL world poured in on X for the man they called “Mort” on and off the gridiron: 

JEFF PASSAN: “Chris Mortensen was a shining example for everyone who does this job. Kind to all. Thoughtful and principled. He knew he had the best job in the world and never took it for granted. I cherished every conversation with him and feel lucky to have called him a friend. RIP, Mort.”

SCOTT VAN PELT: “Every single tribute to Mort is the same. The sincerity, decency, kindness, professionalism and humanity of the man is referenced by every team, player and colleague. Believe them all. Christ Mortensen was a wonderful soul.”

SUZY KOLBER: “RIP my dear dear friend. Longtime tv partner and confidant. One of the very few people on earth I could trust with anything. All my love to Micki and Alex.”

ROBERT GRIFFIN III: “Rest in Peace to one of the pioneers of the sports reporting industry. Mort was more than a reporter, but a friend to many and a great teammate. Prayers up for the entire Mortensen family.”

Chris Mortensen talks into microphone

Chris Mortensen is shown during the Monday Night Football game between the Green Bay Packers and Seahawks in Seattle on Nov. 27, 2006. (Kirby Lee/NFLPhotoLibrary)

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JEFF DARLINGTON: “Chris Mortensen is the person I strives to be like when I was young. And after the friendship we developed, he remained the type of person I want to be as I grow older. I am forever indebted to him for all the ways he inspired me – both before and after I got to call him a treasured friend. While I’m not ready to accept a world without Mort, I am so thankful for the time he was here. A devastating day for our industry and all those who were lucky enough to know him.”

SHAUN O’HARA: “Heartbreaking news about Chris Mortensen. He was liked & trust by EVERYONE. Always a joy to be around. Prayers to his family & friends. We will all miss you Mort.”

GREG JENNINGS: “One time for Christ Mortensen! #RIP”

MIKE GREENBERG: “Chris Mortensen was one of the kindest, most generous gentlemen you could ever come across, in any field. His professionalism and decency earned him universal admiration – his enthusiasm and good nature made him everyone’s friend. His mark on the business will last a long time, his impact on those of us lucky enough to know him well will last the rest of our lives. Rest in peace, Mort. We will treasure your memory forever.”

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