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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.

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88 Responses to “Todd Christensen, All-Pro tight end, dies at 57”
  1. natijim235 says: Nov 13, 2013 12:19 PM

    WTF – way too young….RIP!

  2. 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.

  3. thepftpoet says: Nov 13, 2013 12:20 PM

    I went to high school with this man

    RIP

  4. eaglesnoles05 says: Nov 13, 2013 12:21 PM

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

  5. ratsfoiledagain says: Nov 13, 2013 12:23 PM

    Sucks…I liked him as a player.

    RIP Todd. You were a damn good TE!

  6. lennydpocketqb says: Nov 13, 2013 12:23 PM

    Much too young RIP.

  7. kane337 says: Nov 13, 2013 12:24 PM

    Oh wow. Really enjoyed watching him play for the Raiders. He was such a smart guy too. Gone too soon. RIP

  8. phinatic29 says: Nov 13, 2013 12:25 PM

    Really good player – too young sorry to see this.

  9. grabgrabgrab says: Nov 13, 2013 12:26 PM

    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

  10. kingpel says: Nov 13, 2013 12:26 PM

    This is concerning.

    RIP.

  11. getyourownname says: Nov 13, 2013 12:26 PM

    Liked him as a commentator, too. Hard to believe, sorry to see.

  12. 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.

  13. jetslakersfan says: Nov 13, 2013 12:26 PM

    RIP a great TE.

  14. frankiemontana says: Nov 13, 2013 12:26 PM

    WOW-WTF, Todd Christensen LA Raider, RIP, Al must have been looking for a TE

  15. danoj14 says: Nov 13, 2013 12:27 PM

    He was awesome on Married With Children

  16. sickoe47 says: Nov 13, 2013 12:28 PM

    Rip to a great football player and an even greater man.

  17. raiderlyfe510 says: Nov 13, 2013 12:28 PM

    Aww man. Sad day for Raider Nation. RIP #46.

  18. jeremyk717 says: Nov 13, 2013 12:28 PM

    RIP Great player and person. So sad…

  19. wehager says: Nov 13, 2013 12:28 PM

    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

  20. trollaikman8 says: Nov 13, 2013 12:31 PM

    He was a great TV commentator too. Funny and knowledgeable…..everything that current day game commentators are not.
    RIP.

  21. lks311 says: Nov 13, 2013 12:31 PM

    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.

  22. cospgsmadman says: Nov 13, 2013 12:35 PM

    One of the best ever.
    R.I.P.

    Signed sad Broncos fan. :-(

  23. souldogdave says: Nov 13, 2013 12:36 PM

    Too close to home for this 56 yr old Raider fan. RIP

  24. radrntn says: Nov 13, 2013 12:37 PM

    dude was stud of a tight end. way to young to die…RIP…

  25. nacho50 says: Nov 13, 2013 12:38 PM

    agree with all. great color commentator on nbc and espn …don’t forget the American gladiators too

  26. pooflingingmonkey says: Nov 13, 2013 12:38 PM

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

    RIP.

  27. steelnucs says: Nov 13, 2013 12:39 PM

    One of the top 5 TEs ever to play. Wow. Shocking.

  28. deadeye says: Nov 13, 2013 12:40 PM

    He’s not really dead as long as we can find a way to remember him.

    RIP Todd.

  29. logast says: Nov 13, 2013 12:41 PM

    Condolences to the Christensen family. Rest in Peace.

  30. MyTeamsAllStink says: Nov 13, 2013 12:42 PM

    very sad day for Raider fans everywhere.Rest in peace :(

  31. prozachary says: Nov 13, 2013 12:45 PM

    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…

  32. golfore says: Nov 13, 2013 12:45 PM

    Was a premier tight end, a game changer, and a class act. A very sad day for the Raider family and the NFL. RIP # 46

  33. realfootballfan says: Nov 13, 2013 12:49 PM

    Shocking to see this. He was a great player in the 80′s on those Raider teams.

  34. seahawksbmx says: Nov 13, 2013 12:52 PM

    Wow. Way too young. Remember many Seahawks/Raiders games from the ’80s. TC was a beast. R.I.P.

  35. aa1829 says: Nov 13, 2013 1:07 PM

    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!

  36. marcuswelby70 says: Nov 13, 2013 1:12 PM

    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.

  37. lunarpie says: Nov 13, 2013 1:15 PM

    R.I.P. TODD CHRISTENSEN!!!!

    One of the GREATEST TE’s of ALL TIME and A RAIDER LEGEND!!!!

    RaiderFan

  38. ambitoos says: Nov 13, 2013 1:17 PM

    RIP Todd. Al Davis must be building a team up there.

  39. bleedeaglegreen says: Nov 13, 2013 1:18 PM

    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!!

  40. araidersfan says: Nov 13, 2013 1:20 PM

    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.

  41. scoops1 says: Nov 13, 2013 1:22 PM

    He was great in the one episode of Married w/ Children

  42. steelnucs says: Nov 13, 2013 1:24 PM

    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.

  43. 64post says: Nov 13, 2013 1:29 PM

    I can remember him making some of the most difficult catches in the middle of the field, one of those he was upside-down. Great hands.

  44. 44mpo says: Nov 13, 2013 1:29 PM

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

  45. roadtrip3500 says: Nov 13, 2013 1:31 PM

    Very good tight end, and very good on camera. Big loss.

  46. getyourownname says: Nov 13, 2013 1:32 PM

    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.

  47. jspyle says: Nov 13, 2013 1:34 PM

    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?????????

  48. nflofficeadmin says: Nov 13, 2013 1:35 PM

    God must have needed a great TE in heaven. RIP Todd Christensen

  49. samphilvista82 says: Nov 13, 2013 1:40 PM

    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.

  50. atkinsandgreenreignsupreme says: Nov 13, 2013 1:43 PM

    1 of my favorite players from the 80′s Raider Teams…Dude was the ISH. RIP TC and keep the intelligent 1 liners going in Heaven…..

  51. guvsta says: Nov 13, 2013 1:44 PM

    @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.

  52. jgedgar70 says: Nov 13, 2013 1:52 PM

    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.

  53. upperdecker19 says: Nov 13, 2013 1:53 PM

    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?

  54. dreamer5873 says: Nov 13, 2013 2:11 PM

    Many blessings to the family. RIP Todd.

  55. bleedeaglegreen says: Nov 13, 2013 2:15 PM

    I stand corrected, it was John Mackey. Thanks for the clarification.

  56. pft0 says: Nov 13, 2013 2:19 PM

    RIP

  57. matthewmegabush says: Nov 13, 2013 2:19 PM

    R.I.P. way too young
    I hope there’s football in heaven!

  58. fdugrad says: Nov 13, 2013 2:21 PM

    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.

  59. r8dernation says: Nov 13, 2013 2:27 PM

    Man that sucks, my heart goes out to his family. One of my favorite Raiders of all time.

  60. piratesofthecoliseum says: Nov 13, 2013 2:35 PM

    RIP!! Way too young to die!! The autumn wind is a pirate…

  61. chilomane says: Nov 13, 2013 2:37 PM

    Realest mustache in the game rest in peace

  62. teambringitstrong says: Nov 13, 2013 2:39 PM

    Todd Christensen was so cool even us Black kids wanted to be like him. #RIP46

  63. thatstinks says: Nov 13, 2013 2:45 PM

    Heartbreaking . What a great person and interview to boot . RIP

  64. bostonbias says: Nov 13, 2013 2:47 PM

    Prayers go out to his family

  65. godofwine330 says: Nov 13, 2013 2:52 PM

    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.

  66. kaoticbandito says: Nov 13, 2013 2:56 PM

    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.

  67. raiderrob21 says: Nov 13, 2013 3:01 PM

    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!!!

  68. txraiders says: Nov 13, 2013 3:06 PM

    Loved to watch him play. You could always count on him. What hands. RIP, what a shock.

  69. TheWizard says: Nov 13, 2013 3:18 PM

    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.

  70. thevinceofdarkness says: Nov 13, 2013 3:20 PM

    RIP Toddzilla!!

  71. wadaz says: Nov 13, 2013 3:24 PM

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

  72. thisdamnbox says: Nov 13, 2013 3:40 PM

    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…

  73. tillihawk says: Nov 13, 2013 3:56 PM

    Not a Raiders fan but loved this guy… Todd was clutch for the Raiders. Very sad day for football.

  74. sd5547 says: Nov 13, 2013 3:57 PM

    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!

  75. duece5 says: Nov 13, 2013 4:00 PM

    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….

  76. paul82461 says: Nov 13, 2013 4:11 PM

    R.I.P Mr. Christiansen, to bad some of these idiots with the thunbs down cant take your place.

  77. mackcarrington says: Nov 13, 2013 4:41 PM

    Great perm, great mustache, great intellect, great player. Glad I got to see him play in person.

  78. psousa1 says: Nov 13, 2013 4:56 PM

    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.

  79. drone501 says: Nov 13, 2013 5:12 PM

    great player and very good announcer. very shocking news. RIP and god bless from steeler nation.

  80. tbraiders says: Nov 13, 2013 5:37 PM

    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.

  81. lingsun54 says: Nov 13, 2013 5:38 PM

    He belongs in the Hall of Fame. Along with Roger Craig and Drew Pearson.

  82. clemenza58 says: Nov 13, 2013 5:39 PM

    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.

  83. reggiemckenziesfro says: Nov 13, 2013 5:41 PM

    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.

  84. olcap says: Nov 13, 2013 5:57 PM

    RIP – a truly great football player.

  85. joetoronto says: Nov 13, 2013 8:19 PM

    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.

  86. psly2124 says: Nov 13, 2013 11:12 PM

    R.i.p one of my all time favorite raiders. Great hands

  87. grimmlock42 says: Nov 13, 2013 11:43 PM

    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.

  88. Raider-in-PA says: Nov 14, 2013 3:10 PM

    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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