ESPN NFL Reporter Chris Mortensen Is Dead at 72 — What Happened to Him?

Peyton Manning remembered Chris Mortensen and said, "We lost a true legend. Mort was the best in the business and I cherished our friendship."


Mar. 4 2024, Published 9:40 a.m. ET

Chris Mortensen on the sidelines of a Salt Lake Stallions vs. Birmingham Iron game.
Source: Getty Images

If you have followed ESPN's NFL coverage at any point in the last 30 years, odds are you're at least somewhat familiar with Chris Mortensen. Chris worked for the network for 32 years covering the NFL, and news broke that he had died at the age of 72.

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Following the news of his death, many wanted to better understand Chris's life and career, as well as how he died. Here's everything we know about the award-winning journalist's cause of death.

Chris Mortensen interviewing Peyton Manning after the American Bowl in 2005.
Source: Getty Images
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What was Chris Mortensen's cause of death?

Chris reportedly died on March 3, 2024, and ESPN confirmed the news in a statement. They didn't provide any cause of death along with the announcement.

"Mort was widely respected as an industry pioneer and universally beloved as a supportive, hardworking teammate," ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro said. "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."

Chris announced back in 2016 that he had been diagnosed with throat cancer, but he continued to work even as he sought treatment. In 2023, Chris announced his retirement and said that he planned to "focus on my health, family, and faith."

It's unclear what his cause of death was, although many suspect that it may have been connected in some way to his diagnosis of throat cancer.

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Who was Chris Mortensen's wife?

Chris was married to his wife, Micki Mortensen, for 39 years. The couple had their first and only son, Alex, in 1985, and he shared his father's passion for football, going on to become a coach in the sport himself.

Although Chris has always kept his personal life relatively quiet, it's clear that Micki was a pillar for him throughout their life together, and especially as he went through cancer treatment.

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Did Chris Mortensen smoke?

Following the news that Chris had been diagnosed with throat cancer, many naturally wondered whether the diagnosis might have had anything to do with a previous smoking habit.

According to reports, Chris had never been a smoker, so it seems that any challenges he faced with regard to his health had nothing to do with his own habits.

When he first returned to broadcast after having been diagnosed, many noticed that Chris had lost a considerable amount of weight since the earlier part of his career. The weight loss was due almost entirely to his battle with throat cancer, which is why some felt he looked slimmer at the very end of his time on the air.

Following the news of his death, everyone from fellow journalists to Peyton Manning paid tribute to Chris and his long career as a reporter.

"We lost a true legend," Peyton wrote in a social media post. "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."

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