Todd Christensen, a five-time Pro Bowl tight end with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders from 1978-1988, died Wednesday at a hospital near his home in Alpine, Utah, from complications during liver transplant surgery. He was 57 years old.
Christensen, a devout Mormon, did not drink. His family believed the liver problems began 25 years ago after a "botched" gall bladder operation.
Christensen came out of BYU as a running back, but late Raiders owner Al Davis saw something else. "He was a hybrid tight end, an H-back before it came a football term," says former Raiders coach Tom Flores.
Playing at 6-3, 230 in the NFL, Christensen finished with 461 receptions for 5,872 yards and 41 touchdowns in the regular season, including 92 catches for 1,247 yards and 12 touchdowns in 1983.
"He brought a lot to table as a person and a personality, and also on the football field he could catch everything thrown his way basically," says Jim Plunkett, the former quarterback who teamed with Christensen on two Super Bowl runs. "He was a big, barrel-chested guy at one time, and he had knack for getting between the ball and the defender."
Nicknamed The Renaissance Man for his varied interests, Christensen left football for broadcasting, including at NBC Sports, ESPN and the CBS Sports Network.
"I remember Todd always using big words and quotes from famous authors and poets," Flores says. "He was comical at times because no one knew what he was talking about."