Joe Person, Jonathan Jones and Michael Gordon of the Charlotte Observer, Greg Bishop of Sports Illustrated, Scott Pitoniak of the Rochester Business Journal, Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle and Brian Allee-Walsh of SportsNOLA.com all won first place in their respective categories in the Professional Football Writers of America’s 2015 Dick Connor Writing Awards.
The Connor Awards encompass news, game stories, columns, features, enterprise features and blogs written by PFWA members from post-Super Bowl XLVIII in New York/New Jersey through Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona.
The awards are named for Connor, a former PFWA president and the organization’s 1991 Dick McCann Award recipient, who worked for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News. Connor was inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame in 1992 and was a 22-time Colorado Sports Writer of the Year honoree.
One writer won category first-place honors and earned two total place awards:
Bishop took first place in the Game Stories category for “Super Bowl XLIX: A dramatic fourth-quarter comeback over the Seahawks vaulted a previously unknown cornerback into the spotlight and established Tom Brady as one of the best quarterbacks of all time”. He also tied for third place in the Enterprise Features category for “Awakening the Giant (Y.A. Tittle)”.
Other category winners were Person, Jones and Gordon, who won the News category with “Hardy guilty in assault case. Carolina Panthers star to appeal, will face a jury trial”, a tie for first place in the Columns category for a pair of Pitoniak pieces: “Reflections on the heroic life and legacy of a Buffalo Bill” and “Kelly’s finest hours have come during his most trying times”, Dunne, who won the Features category with “Finding Favre: Packers legend talks about life after football and how he still scratches his competitive itch”, Smith, who won the Enterprise Features category with a nine-part series “Demetri Goodson: The making of an NFL prospect” and Allee-Walsh, who won the Blogs category.
Pitoniak’s pair of first-place entries in Columns was his second-straight top honor in that category.
Other PFWA members with two place awards were Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, who took second in both News and Blogs, Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News, who tied for third in Game Stories and took third in Columns, David Weinberg of the Press of Atlantic City, who was second in Columns and third in News and Seth Wickersham of ESPN the Magazine, who tied for third in both Features and Enterprise Features.
In addition, Vacchiano earned Honorable Mention in the Features category.
In all, 18 different PFWA members received a first-, second- or third-place award, or honorable mention.
The News, Game Stories, Columns, Features and Enterprise Features were judged by David McHam, journalism professor at the University of Houston who was the head of the journalism school at both Baylor and SMU before moving to UH.
The Blogs category was judged by Dick Schneider, a former sportswriter/columnist at the Fort Myers (Fla.) New Press, who is now retired after a long, award-winning career as an executive editor at several newspapers, including the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, and Glenn Drosendahl, a former Seahawks beat writer and sports editor for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He spent 24 years at that paper before moving on to blogging, travel writing and food critiquing, the latter for the Puget Sound Business Journal. He has been a judge for the PFWA blog award since its inception.
The full list of the 2015 winners follows:
2015 DICK CONNOR WRITING AWARDS
1. Joe Person, Jonathan Jones, Michael Gordon; Charlotte Observer: Hardy guilty in assault case. Carolina Panthers star to appeal, will face a jury trial
2. Chris Tomasson, St. Paul Pioneer Press: Vikings’ owners: ‘We made a mistake’ in reinstating Adrian Peterson
3. David Weinberg, Press of Atlantic City: Philadelphia Eagles/Kelly gains power in shake-up of front office
1. Greg Bishop, Sports Illustrated: Super Bowl XLIX: A dramatic fourth-quarter comeback over the Seahawks vaulted a previously unknown cornerback into the spotlight and established Tom Brady as one of the best quarterbacks of all time
2. Jenny Vrentas, TheMMQB.com: Rogers’ Starr Moment
3. (Tie) Rob Demovsky, ESPN.com: Aaron Rodgers pulls off fake spike play in Packers’ winning drive; Ralph Vacchiano, New York Daily News: Bryant, Dallas in shock
1. (Tie) Scott Pitoniak, Rochester Business Journal: Reflections on the heroic life and legacy of a Buffalo Bill; Scott Pitoniak, Rochester Business Journal: Kelly’s finest hours have come during his most trying times
2. David Weinberg, Press of Atlantic City: Christie needs to grow up
3. Ralph Vacchiano, New York Daily News: The question had dogged Tom Coughlin for more than a decade …
1. Tyler Dunne, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Finding Favre: Packers legend talks about life after football and how he still scratches his competitive itch
2. Jason Wilde, ESPNWisconsin.com: Wish granted: For Kellan Meinke and his family, a weekend with the Packers was just what the doctor ordered – a break from the difficult reality of his rare, complicated illness
3. (Tie) Zac Boyer, Washington Times: Drive to be a winner: Unorthodox path led Jay Gruden out of his big brother’s shadow to NFL; Seth Wickersham, ESPN the Magazine: Walking the Fault Line
Honorable Mention: Kevin Armstrong, New York Daily News: From the Beginning to the end? With Giant Future uncertain, Coughlin returns to Jacksonville, where his head coaching career began; Ralph Vacchiano, New York Daily News: 4 days at the camp that turns young QBs from Boys to Mann
1. Brian T. Smith, Houston Chronicle: Demetri Goodson: The making of an NFL prospect
2. Michael Clay, Pro Football Focus: The Impact of Defensive Packages on Yards Per Carry
3. (Tie) Seth Wickersham, ESPN the Magazine: Highway to Hell (the O.J. Simpson story); Greg Bishop, Sports Illustrated: Awakening the Giant (Y.A. Tittle)
1. Brian Allee-Walsh, SportsNOLA.com
2. Chris Tomasson, St. Paul Pioneer Press
ABOUT THE PFWA: The Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA) is the official voice of pro football writers, promoting and fighting for access to NFL personnel to best serve the public. The PFWA is made up of accredited writers who cover the NFL and the 32 teams on a daily basis. Jeff Legwold, who covers the Denver Broncos for ESPN.com, is the organization’s president for 2015-17, while Bleacher Report national columnist Dan Pompei is the PFWA’s first vice-president and ESPN’s Jim Trotter is the organization’s second vice-president. Follow the PFWA at ProFootballWriters.org and on Twitter at @PFWAwriters.