HURRICANE — Former Washington Redskins and Los Angeles Raiders quarterback Jay Schroeder once benefited from the soft hands of the late Todd Christensen, whom some say should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Schroeder remembers the former BYU star as a remarkable pass-catching tight end in the NFL, one who vacuumed passes out of the sky, made what seemed like a million first downs, and scored gobs of touchdowns.
“I love Todd. Todd was Todd,” said Schroeder. “He was a fantastic receiving tight end and a great football player.”
Christensen missed only one game as a Raider, and in that uniform he caught 461 passes for 5,872 yards and 41 touchdowns. He died Nov. 13, 2013, at 57, from complications following liver surgery.
When Schroeder got traded to the Raiders after being with the Redskins and the QB who replaced Joe Theismann when he broke his leg on national TV, he sat next to Christensen on a plane from Houston after a Monday night game. Christensen was half-joking when he told his quarterback how he liked to play the game.
“Just to let you know,” Christensen said at the time. “You know that 60 protection where the tight end blocks? I don’t block. If my guy comes, just throw it to me, that’s how I get all those passes on those check downs.”
“Really,” said Schroeder?
“Yes, just hit it,” answered Christensen.
“He was just a phenomenal tight end and it's just sad that he died so early in his 50s. His longevity, his productivity, his numbers are all there," Schroeder said. "It is a great accomplishment to be in the Hall of Fame. I could make a case for and against him, but he was a fantastic teammate and friend.”
Now a St. George resident since 2005, Schroeder was front and center representing the Raiders this week at the Leavitt Charity Cup, a Ryder Cup-format pro-am at the Sand Hollow Golf Course.
The Raiders organization, which is re-locating to Las Vegas, made its first official foray into Utah by sponsoring a team at Sand Hollow. As a member of that team, I can now say I played for the Raiders. Cedar City native and vice president of marketing Brandon Clark captained the team.
Folks in Utah are already buying season tickets to Raiders games in Las Vegas, a potential venue that would smother the forced-down-the-throat TV attention given to the Denver Broncos in the Salt Lake City market.
That would be just fine with Schroeder and Raider Nation, which has a stake among Utahns. After all, plenty of BYU and Utah fans love going to Vegas to see their teams play. Why not adopt another?
Schroeder’s career, like so many who played in the NFL, left him with plenty of injuries to heal as he’s aged. The former UCLA quarterback has undergone 13 surgeries, including a total neck reconstruction with eight titanium screws, pins and rods inserted a year ago this past August. He receives a pension of $1,483 a month from the NFL, but no medical benefits.
The injury happened in 1991 and was caught on film and made the cover of Sports Illustrated when a Buffalo Bills defender grabbed his facemask and twisted his head around during a tackle. After an NFC playoff game, he suffered a concussion and was “out” for two hours after the game.
“I do have some short-term memory loss and light sensitivity but I’ve dealt with it,” said Schroeder. “I played 11 years in the NFL and I’d do it all over again.”
Football has changed since those days when quarterbacks were sitting ducks and there were no targeting penalties protecting offensive players. Back in those days, the violence was celebrated.
“It was nine years before I took a hike from the center in the shotgun formation,” he said. “It was all under the center. Nowadays, that’s about all you see is the shotgun.”2 comments on this story
Schroeder is still a very athletic man, tall, broad shoulders, a big smile, and representative of the game. He lives across the street from Sunbrook Golf Club and many days can be seen working at the staging area of The Ledges Golf Club just outside the city from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“I wake up and see the sunrise in St. George. It’s a beautiful experience and one I cherish every day. I live with my daughter and my dog. I like to do things, get out and be active. I can’t just sit around all day.”
It’s been a good life of many sunrises for the NFL veteran.
One Todd Christensen should have also enjoyed if he’d just had the time.