Todd Christensen, the brawny tight end whose sure hands helped lead the NFL's Raiders to two Super Bowl championships in the 1980s, died of complications following surgery in a Utah hospital. He was 57.
Christensen's son, Toby Christensen, said his father passed away Wednesday morning at Intermountain Medical Center near his home in Alpine, Utah.
Christensen was a devout Mormon who didn't drink, and his family believes his liver problems started 25 years ago after a "botched" gall bladder operation, his son told The Associated Press.
The five-time pro-bowler, who amassed 461 receptions and 41 touchdowns in a 12-year career, most of which was spent with the Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders, had battled liver disease in recent years, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
The Oregon native became one of the league’s top pass-catching tight ends after starring as a 6-foot-2-inch fullback at BYU. He was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1978, and later traded to the Raiders where he won Super Bowl rings in 1981 and 1983. He didn't break out as a bona fide star until the strike-shortened 1982 season, when, as a Raider, he tallied 42 receptions for 510 yards and four touchdowns. The following year, Christensen caught a league-leading 92 passes for 1,247 yards and 12 touchdowns.
After retiring in 1987, Christensen worked as an NFL analyst for NBC and the now-defunct Mountain West Sports Network. He was also inducted into the BYU Hall of Fame and the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame, according to his BYU player profile.
"Todd is first and foremost a great player,” former BYU coach LaVell Edwards said of Christensen. “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."
BYU officials confirmed the report on its Twitter feed.
“Former #BYU TE Todd Christensen passed away this morning due to complications from surgery,” the posting read. “Our love & prayers are w/the Christensen family.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.