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 2015 Off-Field Awards balloting is underway through June 5, with the final results announced later 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), which will have a class of four members again this year.
Here are the biographies of the 2015 nominees in each category.
George Halas Award (NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed):
Steve Gleason, former New Orleans Saints player — The former New Orleans safety revealed in 2011 he was battling ALS. He has become an icon of strength for those fighting critical illness and has been a leading advocate for ALS support and research. He founded Team Gleason, a foundation committing to helping people with ALS..
TE Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots — Gronkowski endured a difficult 2013, which saw him require two offseason surgeries on his forearm and offseason back surgery. Then he tore ligaments in his knee in a December game, and he played in only seven games. He came back in 2014 to play in 15 games, was a first-team PFWA All-Pro selection and helped the Pats to the Super Bowl XLIX title.
CB Chris Harris Jr., Denver Broncos — Harris started the Broncos’ 2014 opener at cornerback just seven months after undergoing ACL surgery. He played the entire year, made the Pro Bowl and earned second-team All-Pro honors.
LB Rolando McClain, Dallas Cowboys — McClain had various off-the-field incidents with the Raiders from 2010 to 2012, then he sat out all of 2013 in retirement. He signed with Dallas in July, played in 13 games, had more than 100 tackles and was a Pro Bowl alternate.
DT Devon Still, Cincinnati — Still’s 4-year-old daughter, Leah, was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer in June 2014. He essentially put his career on hold, spending time with her in the hospital and during her treatments all summer and fall. He played sparingly in 12 games. His daughter was determined to be in remission in March 2015.
Good Guy Award (NFL player for his qualities and professional style in helping pro football writers do their jobs):
This year’s Good Guy Award finalists were each recognized for their accountability, their candor and professionalism throughout the past season.
RB Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers
WR Andre Johnson, Houston Texans
QB Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
CB Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks
TE Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
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.
Bryan Burwell, St. Louis Post-Dispatch — Burwell was a columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from 2002 until his death in December 2014. His career spanned decades as a columnist and feature writer as well as extensive TV work. He also wrote columns for USA Today and The Detroit News, and he worked in New York at the Daily News and Newsday. The AP named Burwell one of the country’s top 10 sports columnists in 2007, and he wrote “Madden: A Biography” in 2011.
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 — Goldberg was the AP’s national NFL writer from 1984 to 2009. He also was a columnist for AOL Fanhouse. He was an at-large member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and also served on the senior selection committee before his death in February 2015.
Paul Needell, Newark Star-Ledger — Needell worked for the Star-Ledger as a NFL columnist from 1996 until 2010. He started his career with the New York Daily News as a copy boy, and he became the paper’s Jets beat writer in 1983, where he served until his move to the Star-Ledger in 1996. He died in January 2015.
Jack Horrigan Award (League or club official for his or her qualities and professional style in helping the pro football writers do their job):
Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals head coach — Arians has been one of the most open and accessible head coaches in recent memory. Never shy about expressing his opinions, he’s helpful to beat writers and national writers alike.
John Fox, former Denver Broncos head coach — Now in his third head coaching stint with the Chicago Bears, Fox has always shown the professionalism and availability that PFWA members hope to see from one of the most important people in any NFL organization.
John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens head coach — The straight-talking Harbaugh is a very reliable subject with his media interactions. His availability is top shelf, he’s willing to help writers in the Baltimore market as well as the national circuit.
Joe Horrigan, Pro Football Hall of Fame EVP museums, selection process & chief communications officer — With this award named after his father, Jack, Joe has carried on the legacy of terrific PR work on behalf of the Hall of Fame, which has seen tremendous growth during his nearly four decades on the job. As reliable as they come in terms of helping us do our work.
Mike Mayock, NFL Network — The man is a talking machine, and with no shortage of opinions on current or future NFL players, he has become an invaluable source of information over the years.
Pete Rozelle Award (NFL club public relations staff that consistently strives for excellence in its dealings and relationships with the media):
A record 19 club PR departments received a nomination for the Rozelle Award this year.
Cincinnati Bengals — Jack Brennan, public relations director; P.J. Combs, assistant public relations director; Inky Moore, public relations assistant
Houston Texans — Kevin Cooper, senior director of communications; Evan Koch, communications manager; Charles Hampton, communications coordinator; Amy Palcic, corporate communications manager
Miami Dolphins — Jason Jenkins, VP of communications; Fitz Ollison, senior director of communications; Theresa Manahan, communications manager; Hank Nathan, communications coordinator; Gayle Baden, executive assistant, communications
Minnesota Vikings — Bob Hagan, executive director of public relations; Tom West, assistant director of public relations; Jeff Anderson, executive director of communications; Jon Ekstrom, public relations manager; Sam Newton, public relations assistant
Pittsburgh Steelers — Burt Lauten, communications coordinator; Dominick Rinelli, public relations/media manager; Ryan Scarpino, public relations assistant
Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Award – Class of 2015 (Lifetime achievement as an assistant coach in the NFL) – Class of 2015 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.
Dick LeBeau — In 43rd season as a NFL coach. hired as assistant head coach/defense for the Tennessee Titans in January 2015 after 11 seasons as defensive coordinator with Pittsburgh, considered the architect of the zone blitz scheme, coached in six Super Bowls.
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.
Tom Moore — In 37th season as NFL assistant, current assistant head coach/offense for the Arizona Cardinals, best known for record-breaking offenses in Indianapolis and tutoring of QB Peyton Manning, coached in four Super Bowls.
Dante Scarnecchia — 32 years as an NFL assistant, 30 with the Patriots, primarily as the offensive line coach. Coached in seven Super Bowls.
Emmitt Thomas — In 35th season as NFL assistant, current defensive backs coach with the Kansas City Chiefs, started career working with tight ends/wide receivers and later defensive coordinator for three teams, coached in two Super Bowls.
The 2015 PFWA Off-Field Awards will be announced each day from June 15-19, 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 15: George Halas Award
Tuesday, June 16: Good Guy Award
Wednesday, June 17: Dick McCann Award
Thursday, June 18: Jack Horrigan Award
Friday, June 19: Pete Rozelle Award
Date TBA: Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Award