PFWA announces 2016 Dick Connor Writing Awards

Greg Bishop of Sports Illustrated, Scott Pitoniak of the Rochester Business Journal, Ian O’Connor of ESPN.com, Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta of ESPN the Magazine and Brian Allee-Walsh of SportsNOLA.com all won first place in their respective categories in the Professional Football Writers of America’s 2016 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 XLIX in Arizona through Super Bowl 50 in the Bay Area.

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.

Dick Connor, who wrote for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News, was a past PFWA president and the organization's 1991 Dick McCann Award recipient.

Dick Connor, who wrote for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News, was a past PFWA president and the organization’s 1991 Dick McCann Award recipient.

Bishop took a pair of first-place awards in the News category for “After career-threatening injury, Lockette wants to return to football” and in Game Stories for “Von Trapped (Broncos win Super Bowl)”. It was Bishop’s second-consecutive first-place honor in Game Stories.

Other category winners were Pitoniak, won the Columns category with “Former Buffalo Bills reserve reflects on his 9/11 miracle”, O’Connor, who won the Features category with “Inside Bart Starr’s drive to honor fellow Packer great Brett Favre”, Wickersham and Van Natta Jr., who won the Enterprise Features category with their work on “Spygate to Deflategate: Inside what split the NFL and the Patriots apart” and Allee-Walsh, who won the Blogs category.

Pitoniak earned his third-straight top honor in Columns, while Allee-Walsh took first place in Blogs for the second straight year.

Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press earned three individual awards as he took second in Blogs and third in both News and Game Stories. Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News received two individual place awards with a tie for third in both Columns and Features.

In all, 17 different PFWA members received a first-, second- or third-place award.

The News, Game Stories, Columns, Features and Enterprise Features were judged by David McHam, retired journalism professor at the University of Houston who was the head of the journalism school at both Baylor and SMU and worked at Texas-Arlington 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 2016 winners follows:

2016 DICK CONNOR WRITING AWARDS

News
1. Greg Bishop, Sports Illustrated: After career-threatening injury, Lockette wants to return to football
2. Dave Weinberg, Press of Atlantic City: Lurie: Hiring Chip Kelly was a gamble that didn’t pay off
3. Chris Tomasson, St. Paul Pioneer Press: Adrian Peterson returns to Vikings, says he still has love for the team

Game Stories
1. Greg Bishop, Sports Illustrated: Von Trapped (Broncos win Super Bowl)
2. Dennis Waszak Jr., Associated Press: Rex’s Revenge: Ryan’s Bills squeak out 22-17 win over Jets
3. Chris Tomasson, St. Paul Pioneer Press: Shock, disbelief, tears: Vikings devastating defeat is one for the ages

Columns
1. Scott Pitoniak, Rochester Business Journal: Former Buffalo Bills reserve reflects on his 9/11 miracle
2. Jarrett Bell, USA Today: Widespread blame for bungling concession of Rams’ Case Keenum
3. (Tie) Ralph Vacchiano, New York Daily News: Tom Coughlin retires; Paul Woody, Richmond Times-Dispatch: Richmond needs a better deal for keeping training camp

Features
1. Ian O’Connor, ESPN the Magazine: Inside Bart Starr’s drive to honor fellow Packer great Brett Favre
2. Jason Wilde, ESPNWisconsin.com: Longtime attendant keeps Packers on their toes, works his way into hearts
3. (Tie) Ralph Vacchiano, New York Daily News: Evan Brennan, NFL agent; Jason B. Hirschhorn, SportsonEarth.com: The man behind the Mannings

Enterprise Features
1. Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta Jr., ESPN the Magazine: Spygate to Deflategate: Inside what split the NFL and the Patriots apart
2. Kevin Armstrong, New York Daily News: Aaron Hernandez Murder Trial
3. Scott Fowler, Charlotte Observer: Surviving and thriving: Chancellor Lee Adams turns 16

Blogs
1. Brian Allee-Walsh, SportsNOLA.com
2. Chris Tomasson, St. Paul Pioneer Press
3. Nick Underhill, The Advocate

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.

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