(USA Today Sports Images)
The NFL lost another great player too soon with the death of Todd Christensen on Wednesday.
Christensen died during morning surgery at a hospital in Utah. He was 57 years old. According to The Salt Lake Tribune he had battled liver disease and other serious illnesses in recent years. LATimes.com reported Christensen died during liver transplant surgery.
Former #BYU TE Todd Christensen passed away this morning due to complications from surgery. Our love & prayers are w/the Christensen family.
The former tight end was a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl champion. He was also a television sports analyst.
Christensen was a standout running back at BYU and a second-round draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys in 1978. He is best known for his time with the Oakland Raiders. Christensen started to emerge in 1982 with Oakland, when he had 42 receptions for 520 yards and four touchdowns in a strike-shortened season. In 1983 Christensen caught 92 passes for 1,247 yards and 12 touchdowns, and the Raiders won the Super Bowl at the end of that season.
For a four-year stretch from 1983-86 he was arguably the best tight end in football. After his 1983 season he had two more 1,000-yard seasons. He was named first-team All-Pro twice. He had 349 catches in those four seasons, and led the NFL in receptions in 1983 and 1986.
“I am deeply saddened to hear the news about the passing of my former teammate Todd Christensen," Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said in a statement. "Todd was a special player and an exemplary teammate and I cherished our time together as Raiders. The thoughts and prayers of the entire Raider family are with the Christensen family in this time of mourning.”
Former Raiders coach Tom Flores said: “I remember Todd as always using big words and quoting famous authors and poets. He was comical at times because no one knew what he was talking about. I hadn’t seen much of him lately but miss the fun, great times we all shared as a Raider family.”
By the time Christensen retired after the 1988 season, he had 461 catches for 5,872 yards and 41 touchdowns. Christensen had a short prime because it took him some time to find his niche as a NFL tight end, and that probably cost him a shot at the Pro Football Hall of Fame even though he was one of the most memorable tight ends of that era. Christensen was elected to the BYU Sports Hall of Fame in 1992.
After his NFL career ended, Christensen became an analyst for NBC. He recently served as a college football analyst on the Mountain West's television network until it shut down in 2012.
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