The NFL is nearing the end of an era, as it will soon be losing a voice that has become synonymous with the game.
After first appearing on ESPN in 1991, legendary NFL reporter Chris Mortensen — whom colleagues affectionately call “Mort” — has announced he stepped away from the network following the 2023 NFL Draft.
“Excited about another season,” Mortensen wrote on X (formerly Twitter), “but it’s time to reveal after my 33rd NFL draft in April, I made a decision to step away from ESPN and focus on my health, family and faith. The gratitude and humility is overwhelming. It’s not a classic retirement. I’ll still be here talking ball. It’s just time. God Bless you all.”
Excited about another season but it’s time to reveal after my 33rd NFL draft in April, I made a decision to step away from ESPN and focus on my health, family and faith.
The gratitude and humility is overwhelming.
It’s not a classic retirement. I’ll still be here talking ball.…
— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) September 5, 2023
Mortensen, 71, is one of the most trusted and respected NFL media members, routinely breaking important news and providing insightful commentary. In January 2016, Mortensen revealed he had been diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer and would be taking a leave of absence. Yet after intensive radiation and chemotherapy, he beat the disease and returned to work in January 2017.
Tributes came pouring in during the hours following Mortensen’s tweet, from colleagues and fans alike.
This photo was taken at night two of the KC draft, moments before @mortreport finished his final ESPN assignment. It never will be the same without him by my side, and all those times will be remembered with remarkable fondness. Working next to Mort was the honor of a lifetime. pic.twitter.com/gexu0FLKur
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 5, 2023
I don’t have enough words to thank @mortreport for all he’s done for me. So grateful for his support & guidance in my career. He opened so many doors for me! Much more than that, he’s been one of closest friends for over 25 years. I love you brother. Excited to see what God has…
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) September 5, 2023
Got nothing but love and respect for you Mort. Can't wait to see what God does in and through you on the next journey.
— Jason Romano (@JasonRomano) September 5, 2023
Many of the compliments and well wishes for Mortensen centered on his faith, which he has been outspoken about for years. He joined the Sports Spectrum Podcast a couple times, most recently in May 2021, when he spoke about his storied career covering the NFL and his faith in Jesus.
“Our faith and trust is to be in the Lord and the Lord only,” Mortensen said on the podcast. “It’s not in man, because man will let us down. The flesh lets us down. We all know that. That’s why the Lord sends a Savior.”
It was that faith in Christ that Mortensen clung to as he experienced the trials of life, especially the pain and uncertainty around his cancer diagnosis.
“We know we’re gonna have trials and tribulations in life, it’s in the Bible,” Mortensen said. “We know there’s going to be many discouraging times, and we’re gonna be put to the test. And that’s gonna be from start to finish.
“… I’ve had low moments, certainly low moments. And I’ve had to say, ‘I just give up, Lord. You take it. All these six things right now are overwhelming me. You take it. I can’t handle it.’ And you know what? He does.”
Mortensen, who calls himself a “Jesus follower” on social media, has always been sustained by his Heavenly Father, and he knows that God is with him as he enters retirement. He’s always been one to encourage other believers in faith: players like Reggie White, coaches like Tony Dungy and even fellow reporters like Daniel Jeremiah. Seeing others come to faith is a joy for Mortensen, and something he pleaded even with the podcast listeners to consider.
“I always tell people, ‘You know, if you had one question in life that you should ask and then try to answer, it’s, “Is there a god?”‘ And then I would say, ‘And what does that mean? Is Jesus who He said He was? And what does that mean?’
“I would encourage anybody to call timeout. Ask the question, you seek the answer earnestly and see where it takes you,” he said.
Ponder the question as the 2023-24 NFL season gets underway, the first season in 33 years without Mortensen. Week 1 began Thursday night with the Detroit Lions knocking off the defending Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs.
– SS PODCAST: Chris Mortensen – ESPN Senior NFL Insider (2021)
– SS PODCAST: Chris Mortensen, ESPN Senior NFL Insider (2019)
– ESPN’s Chris Mortensen clings to God as he continues to battle cancer
– NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah finds peace in prayer as NFL draft approaches
– Coach Frank Reich debuts with Panthers as he leans on faith, lessons from seminary