Former BYU/Los Angeles Raider tight end Todd Christensen was always outspoken as a player. More and more now as an NFL retiree, he's getting paid for it.
Christensen made his debut this fall with NBC-TV doing NFL broadcasts as half of one of the network's secondary anchor-team units. Christensen will do color, usually for veteran play-by-play man Charlie Jones.Christensen told Andy Murphy of the "Raiders' Newspaper," an in-house team publication, that he'd like to some day make the transition from sports broadcasting to straight journalism.
"Initially, my long-range goal is to make the same evolution as Bryant Gumble did, moving from sports to journalism," Christensen said. "I realize right now my notoriety comes from my 11 years in pro football, so for me to say, `I'd like Harry Smith's job' doesn't make sense. But I'm pleased to find out that 34 years of age is quite young in the broadcast business, as opposed to football, where 34 makes you Methuselah."
Christensen added that he'd never considered broadcasting until the Raiders moved from Oakland to Los Angeles. "It was very beneficial to me personally because it exposed me to the on-camera side of the broadcast business," he told Murphy. After the Raiders won the 1983 Super Bowl, Christensen joined a Fox variety show called "On Stage America" and was co-host, though it lasted just 13 weeks. That piqued his interest and gave him something to put on a resume, as did radio shows during the last years of his playing career and some work with ESPN.
Christensen played for the Raiders from 1978-1989 and retired as No. 3 on the Raiders' all-time pass-receiving and yardage-gained lists. He led BYU three years in a row in pass receptions, 50 for 603 yards in 1977, 51 for 510 yards in 1976 and 30 for 319 in 1975, as a running back.
Another BYU product, punter Lee Johnson of Cincinnati, is riding the wave this month. Not only did he get credit for throwing a touchdown pass Sunday in the Bengals' 41-7 win over Marc Wilson and the New England Patriots on a fake field-goal attempt, but he's also on an elite NFL ballot to make the league's Silver Anniversary All-Time Team, which will be presented Jan. 27, 1991, at the next Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla.
Ninety-eight players and seven coaches who participated in the first 24 Super Bowls were nominated for the list by a committee of media and NFL officials, and fans can vote via ballots in "USA Today" and "Sports Illustrated" and at Buick dealerships in September, October and November. One coach, 11 offensive, 11 defensive and three specialists will be selected to the All-Time Team.
Johnson is one of four punters on the ballot. The others are the Raiders' Ray Guy, Dolphins' Larry Seiple and Chiefs' Jerrel Wilson.
Utah's Marv Fleming, who played for the Packers and Dolphins, and Manny Fernandez of the Dolphins are also on the All-Time Team ballot.
Johnson's TD pass Sunday was a four-yard shovel to tight end Rod Holman in the first quarter.
Wilson, the former BYU QB, started in place of injured Steve Grogan for the Patriots. His numbers weren't bad - 23 for 41 for 267 yards and a touchdown - but his first pass was intercepted by Bengal cornerback Lewis Billups for the key play on the game's first score, a 46-yard field goal. Wilson's TD pass was seven yards in the second quarter. He'd already thrown a 30-yard pass to Irving Fryar to set up the score.
Other locals who had good days Sunday included ex-Weber Staters Darryl Pollard and Roger Ruzek, former Utah Staters Patrick Allen and Greg Kragen and former Cougar Rodney Rice.
Pollard made six tackles for the 49ers in their 19-13 win over Atlanta. Ruzek kicked field goals of 43 and 18 yards (he missed one) and was good on three extra points for nine points in Philadelphia's 27-21 win over the Rams. Allen had three tackles and an interception with 27-yard return for Houston in the Oilers' 24-10 win over Indianapolis. Kragen, of Denver, had five tackles and two assists in the Broncos 34-31 win over Seattle. Rice had three tackles, an assist and a sack in helping Tampa Bay to its second win over Detroit in three weeks, this one 23-20 at home.
The Raiders have signed former Utah tight end Andy Parker, who was waived in the preseason by San Diego . . . In the Canadian Football Legue, former Weber State split end Gerald Wilcox is eligible to return to activity today for the Ottawa Rough Riders after being on the injured list with a collarbone problem.