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SPORTS: ESPN reporter grateful for new birth

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–Chris Mortensen has a job most football fans would kill for.

As an NFL reporter for ESPN, Mortensen gets paid good money to watch football, to talk about football, to write about football.

He’s on ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown,” “Monday Night Countdown” and “SportsCenter.” He’s at the Super Bowl. He’s in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl. He even gets to work from home and can live wherever he wants.

Not a bad gig.

“I am very grateful to have been blessed with everything I’ve been blessed with,” Mortensen said. “That’s had a great humbling effect on me.”

The humility is something relatively new for Mortensen, who admits that in his past, few people would have used the word “humble” to describe him. But that’s just one of the changes that have taken place in Mortensen’s life over the past few years since he became a Christian.

Mortensen grew up in Los Angeles, the product of a family torn apart by divorce. In a home with four boys, Mortensen was the “black sheep of the family.”

“It means everything you think it means,” he said. “I was the wild child. So I went through my life pretty much living the way we all do in the flesh.”

He left Los Angeles in 1983 to take a job covering the Atlanta Braves for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It wasn’t long until he met Micki, the woman who would become his wife.

Micki was a Christian, and her presence in Mortensen’s life had an impact on him. He recalls how over the intercom system in their home, Micki would often have the radio playing Christian music. When Tony Evans and David Jeremiah would preach, she’d turn up the radio even louder.

“There were times when I would actually put everything down, not make a phone call, and simply listen,” Mortensen said. “That was part of the process. Both were unbelievable teachers. They have so much wisdom.”

Others would engage Mortensen spiritually as well, such as Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs. Mortensen said Gibbs had a “countenance” about him that made Mortensen desire the same thing.

Eventually Mortensen started attending church with his wife. The pastor would give altar calls, and Mortensen remembers promising to himself that he’d never go down front and do what others were doing.

That all changed one Sunday morning in 1993.

“I woke up and was getting ready to go to church,” Mortensen said. “I just felt a very different emotional, spiritual stirring within me.”

He spent some time in the prayer room at church prior to the service. He can’t remember what the pastor’s sermon was about, but he certainly remembers the result.

“When the pastor gave the altar call, something pushed me straight out of my seat, and I was up there so fast. It was almost supernatural,” Mortensen said, fighting to keep his composure. “I get emotional talking about it right now.”

Mortensen had been given a new life in Christ, and the changes were profound.

“I became a better husband. She would probably say a much better husband,” Mortensen said. “I became a better father. I think I became a better employee. I became better at everything. It’s just been a process. It doesn’t mean the struggle stops. It just means I’ve got some help. It’s nice to know that I have the Lord on my side to help me fight the battle.”
Tim Ellsworth writes this column each week for BPSports, on the Web at www.bpsports.net.

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth

    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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