Todd Christensen, All-Pro tight end, dies at 57

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Todd Christensen, a tight end who twice led the NFL in receptions, has died at the age of 57.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Christensen, who had battled liver disease and other illnesses, died this morning in a Utah hospital. Brigham Young University, where Christensen was a star running back, announced that he had died of complications from surgery.

A second-round pick of the Cowboys in the 1978 NFL draft, Christensen played well as a fullback in his first preseason before suffering a broken foot and missing his rookie season. In his second season, the Cowboys told him he was switching from fullback to tight end, he balked, and the team cut him. He was picked up by the Giants but was unhappy there as well, still didn’t want to play tight end, and was quickly cut again.

But the Raiders were able to persuade him that tight end was the position he was best suited for, and he thrived. In 1982 he began to emerge as one of the best tight ends in football, and in 1983 led the league in receptions with 92 while making the first of his five consecutive Pro Bowl appearances. He would lead the league in receptions again in 1986, with 95, and he won two Super Bowl rings during his time with the Raiders.

88 responses to “Todd Christensen, All-Pro tight end, dies at 57

  1. Before there was Gates, before there was Witten, before there was Gonzalez there was Christensen. Underrated player.

  2. The Techmo Bowl “Payton-style” Todd Christensen high five, whenever Bo Jackson didn’t have the ball, will always immortalize him in my memory.

  3. Wow! I’m old and I remember this cat. Amazing how well he and Casper dominated that position, before it became the position is it today.

    WAY TOO YOUNG to go…. RIP

    #SadFaceGoesHere

  4. Clutch, big-time playmaker. Christensen and Ozzie Newsome were head and shoulders above all other TE’s of that era.

  5. I really liked him as a Raider TE but many will soon find out his life outside of the NFL was even greater. This was a great man we lost today.
    Rest In Peace Todd

  6. Wow. That’s a stunner. The joke with Christensen use to be, he may be the smartest guy to ever play Pro Football and if you don’t believe it, just ask him.

    That said, he was whip smart as a player and a color commentator. Live your lives folks—it goes by really quickly.

  7. Sorry to hear this. He was THE best Tight End in football in the mid 1980’s, and an extremely articulate color commentator.

    RIP.

  8. As a dolphin fan, I remember disliking him so much because of how good he was as an enemy tight end….and he wasn’t just good he was tough as they come. R.I.P. Todd…

  9. Death is an illusion. #46 is and always will be with us, just look into the shadows out of the corner of your eye. Todd will be there for us all. Packer Nation mourns with you guys!

  10. wryly1 says:
    Nov 13, 2013 12:26 PM
    Clutch, big-time playmaker. Christensen and Ozzie Newsome were head and shoulders above all other TE’s of that era.

    ———————————–

    I loved Christensen, and Newsome but if you are talking about these two in the ’80’s being head and shoulders above the rest, you must have forgotten about Mark Bravaro.
    RIP Todd.

  11. birdmantd says:
    Nov 13, 2013 12:20 PM
    Before there was Gates, before there was Witten, before there was Gonzalez there was Christensen. Underrated player.
    ================================================
    Christensen was a great player but before him was Dick Mackey. Mackey is the greatest TE to ever play, one of the reasons he’s not as well known as some of the others is the role he played in the NFL’s players union before the union was really accepted. He was vilified for his part in going against Pete Rozelle & the owners with him trying to help other players get ahead.

    RIP to them both!!

  12. Todd was an excellent TE for the Silver & Black in the ’80s although I still think that Dave Casper was the all-time best TE for the Raiders (Casper had lower seasonal catch totals but that was before the 1978 rules changes that tilted things away from defenses in favor of the passing game).

    Aside from his play on the field, what I also liked about Christensen was that he was very quotable and articulate. I had always hoped he would come up with a book about his experiences with ’80s Raiders but sadly that now won’t come about.

    R.I.P.

  13. Loved that he had a different number, not in the 80s than almost all the other receivers at that time. One of the many cool things about him – his hair, the stache, and of course his bad-ass game.

  14. As a die hard Raiders and Cougars fan it is indeed a sad day. Great player and an even better man.
    RIP Todd.

  15. bleedeaglegreen says:
    Nov 13, 2013 1:18 PM
    Christensen was a great player but before him was Dick Mackey. Mackey is the greatest TE to ever play, one of the reasons he’s not as well known as some of the others is the role he played in the NFL’s players union before the union was really accepted. He was vilified for his part in going against Pete Rozelle & the owners with him trying to help other players get ahead.
    ***********
    That’s John Mackey, former Colts great, suffered from dementia (due to concussions) his last few years.

  16. Definitely stunned by the news. RIP Todd. You were a true Raider and set the benchmark for all tight ends to come. Led the league in receptions twice, 5 pro bowls, and two super bowl appearnces (both victories)!!!!! Is he in the football HOF????? And if not, WHY NOT?????????

  17. Arguably the first of the modern pass catching TE’s and definitely one of the best ever.

    When I was a kid it seemed like you never read about ex-football players dying at a young age. Now it is almost a weekly occurence. Makes you wonder if its really worth it for a career that is typically pretty short.

  18. @wryly1 says:

    I think you’d have to consider Kellen Winslow as well in the discussion of great TEs in the 80s, although his career spanned the 70s as well.

    Todd Christensen was a great competitor and a HOF human being. Far too young to be taken from us- my condolences to the family.

  19. This is terrible to hear. I was a big Raiders fan growing up in the 70s and 80s and Todd was one of my favorites. I loved to watch him go over the middle, catch the ball, take a massive hit and get up and run back to the huddle to do it all over again. Tough as nails.

    RIP, you will be missed.

  20. I’m not a huge Hall of Fame follower, but I’m SHOCKED to find that this guy isn’t in. He was dominant during his playing days.

    On a side note. I see some comments about those enjoying his overall perspective in interviews, commentating & TV appearances……how about Todd being the best commentator ever in the history of “American Gladiators”….for those of us old enough to recall?

  21. Oh My LORD!! I can barely believe this!! He was SO young! I remember him as a very good TE and an upbeat, outgoing personality, and of course, young and strong…JEEZ. RIP Todd.

  22. I got into football in 1986 when I was 9, and I remember him vividly. I’ve got his football cards and everything. 57 is far too young to die. May he rest in peace.

  23. Not that you really needed it with Bo and Marcus, but that crossing route to Christensen in Tecmo Bowl was unstoppable. Even if the defense picked the play you could complete it every time.

  24. A sad day as one of the most intellectual Raiders passes on.
    RIP big Todd we enjoyed your effort and commitment to excellence!

    RAIDER NATION!!!

  25. I wonder why ESPN Radio didn’t have a guy like him on in the afternoon instead of the schleck they do now.

    He was very entertaining. Didn’t know he was ill.

  26. RIP Mr. Christiansen. Not a major Raider fan but sure loved to watch him play. Todd, Howie and Ray Guy were great Raider players.

  27. I’m amazed that anyone would ‘thumbs-down’ any comment about Todd’s passing at such a young age, or the condolences to his family. These SOBs must torture kittens and puppies for fun…Really, guys?

    Todd was a class act, and to be remembered as one of the great TEs for an organization that included Dave Casper, that says something…

    Thank you for the great and dedicated play… This Bay Area kid sure appreciated you.

    RIP, Todd…

  28. As a charger season ticket holder for the last 34 years this guy absolutely killed us year in and year out. He earned my respect and I heard he was a great guy off the field too. 57 is too young. RIP!

  29. I heard the news and was shocked…….

    He was an exceptional TE, and so smart and perceptive.

    He delivered with such astuteness, the nuances of the game when he was a broadcaster.

    His spirit lives on forever.

    RIP Todd….

  30. What a player. He and Ozzie Newsome dominated that position before the era of ‘TEINO’
    (Tight End In Name Only) guys. If he played in today’s game, with so called TE’s being split out and gloves that catch the ball for you, he would be unstoppable.

  31. One of my favorite Raiders ever. I got to meet and talk with him years after he retired and he was hosting American Gladiators. I went to the show in uniform with my son (the Army gave us free tickets if we went in uniform). He didn’t know I was a huge Raider and Todd Christensen fan until we started talking. He tooks some pics with my son and me and gave us autographs. One of my favorite memories. I am extremely sad to hear of his passing.

  32. What a shame and a crime to die so young. One of the great characters of some good Raiders teams. I enjoyed his quotes and found him to be a good follow. Thoughts and prayers to his family. Respect.

  33. R.I.P. Todd, you were a great Raider. Unfortunately for Todd he played for the Raiders, because with his talent, Pro bowls,and super bowl hardware he would be in Canton if he played for some suck up franchise like N.E. or Dallas.

  34. Wow, I’m in total shock, Todd Christensen.

    What a special, special person he was and an awesome player too.

    Casper was a better blocker but Christensen had hands of gold, there was nothing he couldn’t catch.

    RIP, big guy.

  35. I got to meet him here in Vegas last year for an autograph signing. He was a greatful human being and it’s definitely a sad day indeed. R.I.P. Mr. Christensen and thank you.

  36. Way too young to go! Loved the way this man played for the Silver & Black, sure handed and clutch…. He made us not miss losing Casper as much… Seemed like a nice man through listening to his commentations….

    RIP Todd and condolences to his family….

    Once a Raider, ALWAYS a RAIDER!!

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