Editor’s note: Former BYU and NFL star Todd Christensen died Wednesday. This article was published in The Salt Lake Tribune Aug.11, 1996, under the headline: "Here It Is: Life According to Christensen."
Todd Christensen still does not mince words.
In fact, he crafts each one, quoting coaches and philosophers — even throwing in a ``dogmatic,’’ ``parasite’’ and ``serendipity’’ of his own. The ex-BYU all-star and L.A. Raider standout is still moving at the breakneck speed that earned him AllWAC honors in 1977 and All-Pro laurels five times and brought him two Super Bowl rings in the early 1980s.
Now, ESPN color analyst duties and Arena Football play-by-play occupy his weekends. But not his weekdays. Those are reserved for the kids around northern Utah County, specifically the Alpine area, where he resides and where he assists Doug Allredge and Troy Worthen in managing the town’s Western Boys Baseball Association team. Christensen’s 12-year-old son, Trevor, is the club’s center fielder.
Where once he was a strapping fullback helping to usher in the big-time football era at BYU — playing for three WAC champions in four years — and later a brash Raider tight end who fit neatly into the club’s take-no-prisoners persona, Christensen is now committed to molding the next generation of athletes.
``This is a tremendous age,’’ he says. ``They still have the youthful exuberance, but they’re not quite at that teen-age point, the `Oh, so cool!’ stage.’’
In fact, these kids don’t really know the Todd Christensen we watched catch thousands of yards worth of receptions and later listened to on NBC’s NFL broadcasts. Hearing his dad recall the BYU days of the ‘70s when he was the starting fullback, Christensen’s 8-year-old son, Teren asked quizically, ``You played fullback at BYU?’’ Even Todd was amused. ``Yeah, can you believe that?’’
Aside from all the NFL hoopla — the 1983 season, for instance when he caught a league-leading 92 passes for 12 TDs leading into a Super Bowl win over Washington — it was the BYU experience and the years leading to his Cougar stay that Christensen uses in delivering a message to aspiring athletes.
``Don’t be deterred by anybody who says you are too small or too slow.’’
In fact, Christensen was the last scholarship player selected by BYU in 1974.
``And I was seventh-string fullback.’’ As a pro, ``I was cut twice, rode the bench for four years and was turned down by 27 teams. To start with for the Raiders, I was third-string tight end, snapping for punts and playing special teams. I was just happy to be there. There was always something inside me that told me I can play this game if only given the chance.’’
So now he teaches kids to believe in themselves.
``In 1980, [the Raiders] became the first wild-card team to win the Super Bowl. We had an unbelievable camaraderie. That’s what I like to instill in these kids.’’
And what has the WBBA experience provided Christensen?
``It has given me a great optimism for the future. A little league game runs the gamut of life.’’
The ecstasy of a home run and the roar of the crowd. The agony of an error and the ensuing groans.
``This is a wheat and chaff age for these kids. It’s a separation time. A lot of these kids won’t go on. This is their great sports moment.’’
Like a few days ago for Alpine’s 12-year-old Ryan Moss. Says Christensen,
``He sits on the bench for two games, never complaining. In the biggest game we have against American Fork Beehive, he comes off the bench as a pinch-hitter, singles in the tying run and the place goes crazy.’’
Christensen goes back to the TV booth this fall — ``The reality is there are few good things you are good at. It turns out I could do two things, catch passes and run my mouth.’’Next Page >
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