Joe Horrigan, regarded as the foremost historian on pro football who retired on June 1 as executive director after 42 years on the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s staff, has been selected as the 2019 Jack Horrigan Award winner by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA).
Joe, the son of the late Jack Horrigan, is the 47th Horrigan Award winner. Joe is the second person who has worked for the Pro Football Hall of Fame to receive the honor, joining Don Smith (1997).
The Jack Horrigan Award is given to the league or club official for his or her qualities and professional style in helping the pro football writers do their job. The award is named for Horrigan, who was a sportswriter for UPI and the Buffalo Evening News, public relations director for the American Football League (1963-66) and vice president of public relations for the Buffalo Bills (1966-73).
Horrigan was nominated for the award for his meticulous documentation of pro football history and making that history accessible to journalists during his tenure at the Hall of Fame.
Other 2019 nominees for the Horrigan Award were Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard, Dallas Cowboys owner/president/general manager Jerry Jones, NFL Network communications manager Andrew Howard and Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay.
“You can debate the greatest player in NFL history. Or the greatest quarterback. Or the greatest coach. But at one position there is no debate. There has been and will only be one gatekeeper to Canton –that’s Joe Horrigan,” said Rick Gosselin, the 2004 PFWA Dick McCann Award winner who is a member of the Hall’s selection committee. “He is to the game’s history what Jim Brown is to the game itself. There is no greater authority of his sport. When the game’s greatest players, coaches and owners enter the Hall of Fame, Joe has been there holding the door for them.”
Horrigan began his career with the Pro Football Hall of Fame on June 1, 1977 as a curator. He served in a variety of executive positions during his career at the Hall of Fame, including executive vice president of museums, selection process and chief communications officer before he was named executive director of the Hall in 2016.
As executive director of the Hall of Fame, Horrigan oversaw all aspects of the nationally accredited museum and its related objectives. He also administered the Hall’s enshrinee selection process.
During his long history with the Hall of Fame, Horrigan was intimately involved in the development and implementation of several major renovations and expansions of the museum. Under his guidance, the Hall of Fame expanded its outreach to include several nationally televised specials related to the annual enshrinee selection process and the Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony.
Horrigan has authored, co-authored and edited several books on pro football, including “NFL Century: The One-Hundred-Year Rise of America’s Greatest Sports League,” celebrating the NFL’s centennial scheduled for publication in August. He is also the co-host of the popular weekly national radio show, “Pro Football Hall of Fame Radio,” on SiriusXM. He is also a regular contributor to NFL Films and NFL Network productions, and he has been featured in several films and documentaries.
He has served on several NFL and team committees, including both the NFL’s 75th and 100th anniversary committees. He currently serves on the Black College Football Hall of Fame Advisory Board.
A native of Buffalo, Horrigan graduated from the University of Akron.
Horrigan and his wife, Mary Ann, are the parents of two adult sons, Daniel and Shaun.
ABOUT THE PFWA: In its 56th season in 2019, 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 daily. Bob Glauber, the national football columnist for Newsday, is the organization’s president for the 2018-20 seasons. The Athletic’s Lindsay Jones is the PFWA’s first vice-president, Bleacher Report national columnist Dan Pompei is the PFWA’s second vice-president and ESPN.com’s Mike Sando is the PFWA secretary-treasurer. At-large members include ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold, ProFootballtalk.com’s Charean Williams, Sports Illustrated’s Jenny Vrentas and USA Today’s Mike Jones. Follow the PFWA at ProFootballWriters.org and on Twitter at @PFWAwriters.
JACK HORRIGAN AWARD WINNERS (To the league or club official for his or her qualities and professional style in helping the pro football writers do their job) Year indicates when award was presented for previous season: 1973 – John Breen (Houston Oilers); 1974 – O.J. Simpson (Buffalo Bills); 1975 – Art Rooney (Pittsburgh Steelers); 1976 – Floyd Little (Denver Broncos); 1977 – Jerry Wynn (San Diego Chargers); 1978 – Bob Peck (Denver Broncos); 1979 – John Madden (Oakland Raiders); 1980 – Bum Phillips (Houston Oilers); 1981 – Bob Sprenger (Kansas City Chiefs); 1982 – Joe Gordon (Pittsburgh Steelers); 1983 – Archie Manning (New Orleans Saints/Houston Oilers); 1984 – Art Rooney (Pittsburgh Steelers); 1985 – Joe Browne (NFL); 1986 – Dick Steinberg (New England Patriots); 1987 – Charlie Dayton (Atlanta Falcons); 1988 – Art Modell (Cleveland Browns); 1989 – Tom Landry (Dallas Cowboys); 1990 – George Young (New York Giants); 1991 – Jim Finks (New Orleans Saints); 1992 – John Robinson (Los Angeles Rams); 1993 – Warren Moon (Houston Oilers); 1994 – Don Shula (Miami Dolphins); 1995 – Leslie Hammond (NFL); 1996 – Ron Wolf (Green Bay Packers); 1997 – Don Smith (Pro Football Hall of Fame); 1998 – Tony Dungy (Tampa Bay Buccaneers); 1999 – Greg Aiello (NFL); 2000 – Ernie Accorsi (New York Giants); 2001 – Jeff Fisher (Tennessee Titans); 2002 – Charley Casserly (Houston Texans); 2003 – Herman Edwards (New York Jets); 2004 – Ozzie Newsome (Baltimore Ravens); 2005 – Rich McKay (Atlanta Falcons); 2006 – Floyd Reese (Tennessee Titans); 2007 – Steve Alic (NFL); 2008 – Mike Holmgren (Seattle Seahawks); 2009 – Dan Rooney (Pittsburgh Steelers); 2010 – Gil Brandt (NFL.com); 2011 – Rex Ryan (New York Jets); 2012 – Thomas Dimitroff (Atlanta Falcons); 2013 – Mike Signora (NFL); 2014 – Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks); 2015 – Bruce Arians (Arizona Cardinals); 2016 – John Elway (Denver Broncos); 2017 – Mike Mayock (NFL Network); 2018 – Randall Liu (NFL); 2019 – Joe Horrigan (Pro Football Hall of Fame)