Former Oakland Raiders tight end Todd Christensen passed away Wednesday morning at Intermountain Medical Center near his home in Alpine, Utah, at the age of 57 due to complications from liver transplant surgery.
Christensen had battled liver disease and other related illnesses for the last two years, according to Jay Drew of The Salt Lake Tribune.
Drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second round in 1978, Christensen, then a fullback, broke his foot in the team's last exhibition game. He was placed on injured reserve and waived the following season after not wanting to convert to tight end.
He was claimed off waivers by the New York Giants, but he only lasted one game with the team. He eventually signed with the Raiders in 1979, primarily playing special teams.
In 1982, the eventual five-time Pro Bowler blossomed in Oakland after three uneventful seasons. He led the NFL in receptions twice, breaking the single-season record for tight ends each time (92 catches in 1983, 95 in 1986).
Tom Flores, who coached Christensen during his time with the Raiders, remembers his tight end fondly, via USA Today's Gary Mihoces:
Todd was an excellent football player and was prolific in the passing game. He was a hybrid tight end, an H-back before it became a football term. He started out as a special teamer and was named our special teams captain right away while playing behind Raymond Chester and Dave Casper. He then helped us win Super Bowls.
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.
At BYU, the versatile offensive threat amassed 1,566 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. He added another 1,089 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.
A 1992 BYU Hall of Fame inductee, coach LaVell Edwards said of Christensen, via the school's official website:
Todd is first and foremost a great player. He is intelligent, loyal, a tough competitor - and he has a great mental attitude toward the game. He knew all the offensive positions very well and could have played any one of them.
Christensen retired in 1988 with two Super Bowls, 461 receptions, 5,872 yards and 41 touchdowns.
After his playing career, Christensen became a broadcaster for NFL and college football games, working for NBC and ESPN, among other news outlets.
Our thoughts are with the Christensen family.