Now, he’s helping shape Andrew Luck — one of the most highly regarded prospects of the last decade — into the quarterback of the future for the Indianapolis Colts.
But for Christensen, now in his 11th year as an assistant coach for the Indianapolis Colts, football is not what his life is about.
Serving God is his true mission.
On Thursday, Christensen spoke at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes banquet at Georgia Northwestern Technical College.
His message was simple: following God will lead to a life worth living.
“I always felt God called me to be a layperson,” Christensen said. “I always believed God would work in the workplace, whatever the place.”
The place for Christensen has been the football field, but his journey to the NFL and, ultimately, the Super Bowl was perhaps an unlikely one.
Christensen, 57, was born in Hawaii to a teenage mother and given up for adoption to a family in Los Angeles.
“At that time, if you were born to a teenage girl you might not make it,” he said. “There have been 60 million abortions since I was born. There is some gal out there —and I never met her —who gave me a chance.”
Christensen was adopted by a pastor and his wife, whom he considered the “greatest parents ever.”
His father, now in his 90s, still cheers for his son and blames losses on the refs, Christensen joked.
Christensen was raised in California and went on to play football at the University of North Carolina, his only Division I offer, he said.
He considered himself an average football player and felt better suited for coaching.
“You’ll think I’m insincere with this, but I don’t think I had what it took to be a high school coach,” he said.
“God put me in a position to encourage high school coaches. They’re on the front lines … with our kids. They have tough jobs”
After graduating from UNC, Christensen went on to coach in the college ranks from 1979-1995, which included stops at places like South Carolina, Maryland and Clemson, among others.
It was in 1996 when his friend Tony Dungy got the head-coaching job of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that Christensen transitioned to the NFL.
“We always said if one of us got a head coaching job we’d be on the other’s staff,” Christensen said.
Christensen began with the Bucs as tight ends coach then quarterback coach and finally offensive coordinator.
After the Bucs let Dungy go, Christensen followed him to the Colts.
What followed was a decade of dominance by the Colts, which included nine playoff berths, seven division championships and the Super Bowl win.
Christensen has served in a variety of positions with the Colts over the years, including wide receivers coach and offensive coordinator.
Thursday’s speech wasn’t just about what all was accomplished on the gridiron, but rather about what his platform has allowed God to accomplish, he said.
He discussed how he, Manning and others took a trip to the Middle East to minister to soldiers.
He compared the real life battles being fought by soldiers to the spiritual conflicts undertaken every day by Christians.
“Our schools are under attack; our families, it’s never been harder to be the head of the household,” he said. “There are mines everywhere. We see people picked off from the faith every day.”
Christensen said FCA allows Christian students the opportunity to reach others for Christ in their schools.
“It’s a great tool for God to (enter) the schools,” he said.
He also praised area coaches for their work with high school students.
“I have an appreciation for you folks who have a full time job and really see yourself as full time ministers, which is what I always aspire to be,” he said. “Being a Christian is first and coaching has always been a platform.”