2014 PFWA Off-Field Award nominees announced

Each year, the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) vote for several off-field awards given to people working in or associated with the NFL. The 2014 Off-Field Awards balloting is underway through May 16, with the final results announced in June.

The awards the PFWA membership will vote on:

George Halas Award (NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed)

Good Guy Award (NFL player for his qualities and professional style in helping pro football writers do their jobs)

Dick McCann Award (Reporter who has made a long and distinguished contribution to pro football through coverage)

Jack Horrigan Award (League or club official for his or her qualities and professional style in helping the pro football writers do their job)

Pete Rozelle Award (NFL club public relations staff that consistently strives for excellence in its dealings and relationships with the media)

Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Award (Lifetime achievement as an assistant coach in the NFL) – a new award in 2014, which will have a class of four members this year.

Here are the biographies of the 2014 nominees in each category.

George Halas Award (NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed):

O.J. Brigance, Baltimore Ravens player development director — Brigance has battled amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) since being diagnosed in May 2007. He started the Brigance Brigade, a charity to find ALS research. It is very active, conducting numerous events in Maryland, and Brigance makes appearances to raise money and awareness for the foundation.

LB Thomas Davis, Carolina Panthers — Davis is believed to be the only NFL player to come back from three ACL surgeries on the same knee. He came back to start 12 games in 2012, and in 2013 he started all 16 games, playing 98 percent of the snaps, and he made 89 tackles and four sacks.

John Fox, Denver Broncos head coach — Fox suffered heart problems during Week 10 of the NFL season and underwent heart valve replacement surgery. After a four-week absence, he returned to the Broncos’ sidelines for the final four regular-season games and coached the team to a Super Bowl appearance.

S Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona Cardinals — After being dismissed from the LSU team in 2012, Mathieu got himself clean and was drafted in the third round by Arizona. He became a starter just three weeks into the season and was a critical part of the Cardinals’ defense while being a serious contender for defensive rookie of the year until he blew out his knee in Week 13.

CB Terrell Thomas, New York Giants — The 29-year-old Thomas tore his ACL in the 2011 preseason, and then he tore it again in the 2012 preseason. He came back to play all 16 games in 2013, making 67 tackles and 1 interception.

Good Guy Award (NFL player for his qualities and professional style in helping pro football writers do their jobs):

WR Andre Johnson, Houston Texans — Johnson was nominated for how he conducted himself with the media during a dismal season for his team.

QB Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos — Manning doesn’t do many extended one-on-one interviews these days, even for the local guys, but he was nominated multiple times for the quality of answers overall, and several people mentioned how he handled himself Super Bowl week.

CB Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks — Sherman was nominated for his willingness to take on difficult topics that most players would shy away from. He was cited for his honesty.

DT Kevin Williams, Minnesota Vikings — Williams was nominated multiple times for his willingness to be a voice when times are good as well as when times are not so good. One person said Williams is “just a stand-up guy.”

QB Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks — Wilson was nominated several times for the quality of his answers and his willingness to address almost any topic with openness.

Dick McCann Award (Reporter who has made a long and distinguished contribution to pro football through coverage):

Ron Borges, Boston Herald — Borges worked 24 years at the Boston Globe and has been a columnist for the Boston Herald since 2008. He has been named Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year four times. Borges represents New England on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and also serves on the Hall’s senior selection committee.

Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — Bouchette has worked at the Post-Gazette since 1983 and has covered the Steelers since 1985. He represents Pittsburgh on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

Vinny DiTrani, Bergen Record (retired) — “The Sage,” as Bill Parcells called him, covered the New York Giants for 34 years. DiTrani became the first media member to announce a pick at the NFL draft in 2010 at Radio City Music Hall. He formerly served on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

Dave Goldberg, Associated Press (retired) — Goldberg was the national NFL writer from 1984 to 2009. He also was a columnist for AOL Fanhouse. He is an at-large member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and also served on the senior selection committee.

Jeff Legwold, ESPN.com — Legwold has written about the NFL for a quarter century. He covered the Broncos nine years for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News before joining ESPN.com. He represents Denver on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

Jack Horrigan Award (League or club official for his or her qualities and professional style in helping the pro football writers do their job):

George Atallah, NFLPA assistant executive director of external affairs — Atallah has been a veritable one-man band as the union’s chief spokesman, handling a variety of complicated issues over the years. He is not afraid to offer strong opinions, and his patience in explaining the issues facing the union has been lauded.

Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks head coach — The rest of the country’s media has gotten a chance to see what Seahawks beat writers have experienced since Carroll arrived in Seattle in 2010. Carroll has been a quote machine and has always been accessible regardless of the setting. His run to the Super Bowl gave everyone a chance to see that enthusiasm and cooperation.

John Fox, Denver Broncos head coach — Fox has been a stand-up guy as a longtime head coach — and before that a longtime assistant – never shirking his media obligations and always cooperating with local and national media alike. His openness and honesty about his heart surgery was refreshing, and even though he was asked repeatedly about what he went through, his answers came across as if he were addressing the topic for the first time.

Leslie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings former head coach — Frazier is the first former head coach to be nominated for this award, which speaks volumes about what kind of person he was when it came to his media interactions. Beat reporters raved not only about his availability, but about his open and honest answers about any topic he was asked about.

Mike Mayock, NFL Network — Mayock is one of the most trusted sources for draft-related information, and provides veritable treatises on incoming draft classes through his national conference calls as well as his frequent interviews — most of them on an individual basis — in the days and weeks leading up to the draft and afterward. His knowledge has been an important source of information for several years, and his cooperation with the media is exceptional.

Bill Polian, ESPN — In his role as NFL analyst at ESPN, Polian has been brutally honest both on the air and in numerous interviews on conference calls and on an individual basis. Polian has embraced his new role after decades as one of the league’s pre-eminent general managers, and his availability and enthusiasm during interviews is obvious for all to see.

Pete Rozelle Award (NFL club public relations staff that consistently strives for excellence in its dealings and relationships with the media):

Denver Broncos — Patrick Smyth, executive director of media relations; Rebecca Villanueva, media services manager; Erich Schubert, media relations manager; Jim Saccomano (retiring), VP of corporate communications

Houston Texans — Kevin Cooper, senior director of communications; Evan Koch, communications manager; Charles Hampton, communications coordinator; Amy Palcic, corporate communications manager

Jacksonville Jaguars — Dan Edwards, senior VP, communications; Ryan Robinson, director, public relations; Tad Dickman, communications coordinator

San Francisco 49ers — Bob Lange, director of public relations; Michael Chasanoff, manager of public relations; Dan Beckler, manager of public relations; Talia Malik, public relations assistant

Seattle Seahawks — Dave Pearson, VP of communications and broadcasting; Lane Gammel, director of communications; Julie Barber, media services manager; Rich Gonales, communications manager; Kory Kemp, communications assistant

Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Award – Class of 2014 (Lifetime achievement as an assistant coach in the NFL) – Class of 2014 will have four members:

Bill Arnsparger — 24 years as an NFL defensive coach, best known for guiding the Dolphins’ no-name defense in their perfect 1972 season.

Alex Gibbs — 24 years as an NFL offensive line coach, best known for developing undersized lines that helped the Broncos win two Super Bowls.

Jim Hanifan — 24 years as an offensive line coach, plus six seasons as the Cardinals’ head coach. Coached in three Super Bowls.

Jim Johnson — 23 years as an NFL defensive coach, best known for his late-career work with the Eagles and his ability to disguise blitzes.

Bobb McKittrick — 28 years as an offensive line coach, best known for his work developing undersized lines in 21 seasons with the 49ers, coached in five Super Bowls, winning all.

Howard Mudd — 39 years as an offensive line coach with eight teams, perhaps best known for his dozen years with the Indianapolis Colts.

Dante Scarnecchia — 32 years as an NFL assistant, 30 with the Patriots, primarily as the offensive line coach. Coached in seven Super Bowls.

Fritz Shurmur — 24 years as a defensive coach, 20 as a coordinator, primarily with the Rams and Packers. Coached in three Super Bowls.

Mike Westhoff — 20 years as an assistant in the NFL, best known for his 12-year tenure as special teams coach of the New York Jets.

Ernie Zampese — 24 years as an NFL offensive coach, best known as one of the architects of the modern passing game.

The 2014 PFWA Off-Field Awards will be announced each day from June 16-20, with the Dr. Z Award announcement timing to be determined. The announcement schedule (release time 1 pm ET each day on ProFootballWriters.org, @PFWAwriters on Twitter and by email to members and media outlets)

Monday, June 16: George Halas Award
Tuesday, June 17: Good Guy Award
Wednesday, June 18: Dick McCann Award
Thursday, June 19: Jack Horrigan Award
Friday, June 20: Pete Rozelle Award
Date TBA: Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Award

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