Before NFL reporting career, Chris Mortensen coached Federal News Network’s Peter Musurlian

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA - FEBRUARY 16: Analyst Chris Mortensen watches action prior to an Alliance of American Football game between the Birmingham Iron and the Salt Lake Stallions at Legion Field on February 16, 2019 in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/AAF/Getty Images)(Getty Images/Kevin C. Cox/AAF)

Long before Chris Mortensen was breaking news about NFL rosters and transactions, he was a baseball coach in suburban Los Angeles, working with a team that included Federal News Network’s Peter Musurlian.

Mortensen, who died Sunday at 72 years old, graduated from North Torrance High School and then attended El Camino College, Musurlian said. He then “went off to Vietnam, came back a couple years later and was a sports writer for the local paper,” Musurlian said.

Mortensen worked at the South Bay Daily Breeze, covering high school and junior college sports. He had a weekly column called the Prep-JC Beat. When the team learned Mortensen would be its coach, Musurlian said “we knew him because we were the audience for that column, because we were all high school football players and baseball players and basketball players.”

Musurlian added the team was “excited to have Chris Mortensen as coach.”

Mortensen also played a role in inspiring Musurlian to pursue a career in journalism. Musurlian became a sports writer for his high school newspaper and attended the same community college that Mortensen did before going to USC.

Long before he became an ESPN legend, Chris Mortensen was a baseball coach in suburban Los Angeles, working with a team that included Federal News Network’s Peter Musurlian

“We would be in touch occasionally on baseball fields or high school football fields because he was covering the local scene,” Musurlian said. “He was the first guy I knew fairly well, seeing him all the time, who was writing a sports column for the local paper, a big local paper.”

Mortensen ultimately left California for a job at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Then, he eventually joined ESPN.

“There were no negative stories with him,” Musurlian said. “We were a winning team. Everybody’s just so genuine in what they thought about him.”

Mortensen covered the NFL for almost four decades. He announced his plans to retire after last year’s NFL draft.

In 2016, he said he had been diagnosed with throat cancer. However, he still confirmed Peyton Manning’s retirement while getting treatment.

Social media tributes describe Mortensen as a family man who cared deeply about his family and other people.

“The tributes for Chris Mortensen, you can’t fake that stuff,” Musurlian said.

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Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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