Chris Mortensen, who has covered the NFL for 32 years, including the last 25 as a senior NFL analyst at ESPN and ESPN.com, has been selected as the 2016 Dick McCann Award winner by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA).
Mortensen, the 48th McCann Award winner, is the third current or former member of ESPN.com to receive the honor from the PFWA, joining John Clayton (2007) and Len Pasquarelli (2008).
Other 2016 nominees for the McCann Award were Ron Borges (Boston Herald), Vinny DiTrani (Bergen Record; retired), Jeff Legwold (ESPN.com) and Ira Kaufman (SportsTalkFlorida.com).
The McCann Award is given to a reporter who has made a long and distinguished contribution to pro football through coverage. The award is named for McCann, who was the first director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame (1962-67). McCann was a longtime reporter in New York with several newspapers, the Newspaper Enterprise Association and King Features Syndicate. After a stint in the Navy in World War II, he was a sports columnist for the Washington Times-Herald in 1945. A year later, he joined the Washington Redskins as publicity director and was the club’s general manager from 1947-62 before taking the job with the Hall of Fame before its’ 1963 opening.
“There is not a single person in our industry who is more deserving of any single award than Mort is for the McCann Award,” said ESPN NFL insider and former PFWA President Adam Schefter (2001-03). “It’s based on long and distinguished reporting in professional football, and there’s nobody who has done it longer or in a more distinguished way than Mort. As good of a reporter as he is, he’s a better man, teammate and friend, and the only thing that will give me more joy than seeing him get this award will be getting to work with him again this fall.”
A native of Torrance, Calif., Mortensen attended El Camino College, and then served two years in the Army during the Vietnam Era before he was honorably discharged. He began his journalism career at the South Bay (Calif.) Daily Breeze in 1969.
Mortensen worked for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from 1983-89 where he filed investigative reports and covered the Atlanta Falcons (1985-86) and the NFL (1985-89). He then served as the NFL columnist for The Sporting News and he was a contributing writer for Sport magazine. He covered the NFL for The National (1989-90), where he was one of the first writers hired by editor Frank Deford. He also worked as a consultant with CBS Sports’ NFL Today in 1990.
He joined ESPN in 1991, and for years, Mortensen has played an integral role in ESPN’s year-round NFL coverage, often taking many forms. He regularly appears on NFL Insiders, NFL Live, Sunday NFL Countdown, Monday Night Countdown, SportsCenter and other programs. Mortensen contributes to ESPN’s annual Super Bowl week and NFL Draft coverage, and his work regularly appears on ESPN.com.
Mortensen has covered every Super Bowl since 1985 with the exception of Super Bowl 50 in 2016 when he was forced to take a leave of absence after being diagnosed with Stage IV throat cancer. Even while undergoing treatment, Mortensen broke one of the biggest news stories of the NFL offseason when his report in March 2016 confirmed that future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning would retire after 18 NFL seasons.
Mortensen was honored with the coveted George Polk Award in 1987 for his reporting. He remained the lone sportswriter to receive the award since Red Smith in 1951 until Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams of the San Francisco Chronicle were recognized with the Polk in 2005 for their coverage of the Balco case. He has received 18 awards in journalism, and he has been nominated for two Pulitzer Prizes. In 1978 he won the National Headliner Award for Investigative Reporting in all categories.
Mortensen will be honored during the 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony on August 6 in Canton, Ohio.
“Chris is one of our profession’s greatest treasures,” said ESPN Senior NFL Writer/Commentator and former PFWA President John Clayton (1999-2001). “As a reporter, he is masterful. Like Will McDonough did, Chris shows that accurate information can educate a fan base. Plus, in every segment, he provides the right information that keeps football fans in the know on what is happening in a rapidly changing sport.”
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.
DICK McCANN AWARD WINNERS (To a reporter who has made a long and distinguished contribution to pro football through coverage): 1969 – George Strickler (Chicago Tribune); 1970 – Arthur Daley (New York Times); 1971 – Joe King (New York World Telegram & Sun); 1972 – Lewis “Tony” Atchison (Washington Star); 1973 – Dave Brady (Washington Post); 1974 – Bob Oates (Los Angeles Times); 1975 – John Steadman (Baltimore News-American); 1976 – Jack Hand (Associated Press); 1977 – Art Daley (Green Bay Press-Gazette); 1978 – Murray Olderman (Newspaper Enterprise Association); 1979 – Pat Livingston (Pittsburgh Press); 1980 – Chuck Heaton (Cleveland Plain Dealer); 1981 – Norm Miller (New York Daily News); 1982 – Cameron Snyder (Baltimore Sun); 1983 – Hugh Brown (Philadelphia Bulletin); 1984 – Larry Felser (Buffalo News); 1985 – Cooper Rollow (Chicago Tribune); 1986 – William Wallace (New York Times); 1987 – Jerry Magee (San Diego Union); 1988 – Gordon Forbes (USA Today); 1989 – Vito Stellino (Baltimore Sun); 1990 – Will McDonough (Boston Globe); 1991 – Dick Connor (Denver Post); 1992 – Frank Luksa (Dallas Morning News); 1993 – Ira Miller (San Francisco Chronicle); 1994 – Don Pierson (Chicago Tribune); 1995 – Ray Didinger (Philadelphia Daily News); 1996 – Paul Zimmerman (Sports Illustrated); 1997 – Bob Roesler (New Orleans Times-Picayune); 1998 – Dave Anderson (New York Times); 1999 – Art Spander (Oakland Tribune); 2000 – Tom McEwen (Tampa Tribune); 2001 – Len Shapiro (Washington Post); 2002 – Edwin Pope (Miami Herald); 2003 – Joel Buchsbaum (Pro Football Weekly); 2004 – Rick Gosselin (Dallas Morning News); 2005 – Jerry Green (Detroit News); 2006 – John McClain (Houston Chronicle); 2007 – John Clayton (ESPN.com); 2008 – Len Pasquarelli (ESPN.com); 2009 – Peter King (Sports Illustrated); 2010 – Peter Finney (New Orleans Times-Picayune); 2011 – Bob McGinn (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel); 2012 – Tom Kowalski (MLive.com); 2013 – Dan Pompei (Chicago Tribune); 2014 – Ed Bouchette (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette); 2015 – Dave Goldberg (Associated Press); 2016 – Chris Mortensen (ESPN.com).