ESPN NFL insider cites faith in fight against throat cancer

by Tobin Perry, |
Chris Mortensen | USA Today/Screenshot

BRISTOL, Conn. (Christian Examiner)—As the NFL playoffs barrel toward the iconic Super Bowl 50 in a little more than two weeks, one of the most respected voices in the sport is preparing for a battle of a different kind. ESPN NFL insider Chris Mortensen says he is relying on his evangelical Christian faith as he battles throat cancer.

In a statement released by ESPN, Mortensen said he is leaning on "the love and prayers of my wife Micki, my family, my friends, colleagues and, most of all, my faith that serve as sources of tremendous strength. I have a peace about this and look forward to the battle."

In that same release he told the public he would be stepping away from NFL coverage in order to "fight the good fight" against cancer.

On Twitter, Mortensen thanked those who were supporting and praying for him, specifically citing 1 Timothy 2:1, "I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people" (NIV).

An article notes that Mortensen joined ESPN in 1991 after serving in sports journalism at a variety of newspapers, including The Atlanta Journal Constitution where he was an investigative journalist and covered the Braves and Falcons.

In a video on the Facebook page of the sports ministry "In the Zone," Mortensen talked about how he came to faith in Jesus through the persistent witness of his wife, Micki.

"When I was going through unbelief, she would have on in in our house—we had this radio intercom—every morning she would turn it on to Christian ministry," Mortensen said. "There would be Chuck Swindoll preaching, then there'd be James MacArthur and David Jeremiah, Tony Evans. There were about three to four years of that."

Mortensen said he realized everyone was spiritually wired and began attending church with his wife. He didn't realize that his wife had formed a prayer group that included virtually the whole church. They had been praying for his salvation. One day—after years of fighting it—God answered those prayers.

"That day something knocked me out of the pew straight up into my pastor's arms," the 25-year ESPN veteran said in the video. "Church was pretty crowded that day. ... I realized they gave me a standing ovation in church that day. The reason why is because my wife had started a prayer group that included basically the entire church, and I was totally ignorant and oblivious to the fact that my wife had planted the seed of prayer, praying for my salvation."

A Baptist Press article that outlined Mortensen's journey to faith cited Joe Gibbs as a faith model that drew him toward Jesus. He also noted how a relationship with Jesus changed his life.

"I became a better husband. [My wife] would probably say a much better husband," Mortensen said in the Baptist Press article. "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."

A number of NFL players, including superstars Tony Romo and Larry Fitzgerald, have voiced their support for Mortensen. Fitzgerald did so on national TV just moments after his second-half efforts helped the Arizona Cardinals defeat the Green Bay Packers last weekend, securing their spot in the upcoming NFC Championship on Sunday.