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Longtime NFL reporter Chris Mortensen dies at 72

Chris Mortensen, an NFL reporter for more than three decades, died on Sunday morning, ESPN announced. He was 72.

"Mort was widely respected as an industry pioneer and universally beloved as a supportive, 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 truly be missed by colleagues and fans, and our hearts and thoughts are with his loved ones."

Mortensen, who was diagnosed with Stage IV throat cancer in 2016, announced his decision to step away from ESPN ahead of the 2023 season "to focus on my health, family and faith." His decision was revealed after having covered his 33rd NFL draft.

Joining ESPN in 1991, Mortensen was instrumental in the network's year-round coverage of the NFL, reporting and regularly breaking NFL news while making routine appearances on multiple flagship shows, including "NFL Insiders," "NFL Live," "Sunday NFL Countdown," "Monday Night Countdown" and "Outside The Lines."

"It's a sad day for everyone in the NFL," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "I admired how hard Chris worked to become one of the most influential and revered reporters in sports. He earned our respect and that of many other with his relentless pursuit of news but also the kindness he extended to everyone he met. He will be greatly missed by many of us in the league who were fortunate to know him well beyond the stories he broke each Sunday. We send our condolences to his family, his colleagues and the many people Chris touched throughout his well-lived life."

In 2016, Mortensen was selected as the McCann Award winner by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA), placing him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

A graduate of El Camino College and an Army veteran, Mortensen began his journalism career at the South Bay (Calif.) Daily Breeze in 1969, which covered is native home of Torrance, Calif. Mortensen worked at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from 1983 to 1990, and was honored with the coveted George Polk Award in 1987 for his reporting. He also wrote for The National and had a column in The Sporting News before landing at ESPN.

It was there Mortensen proceeded to help forever change the nationwide coverage of the NFL and help grow the game for the past three-plus decades.