Recently retired Dallas Cowboys center Travis Frederick, who was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2019 after missing the entire 2018 season due to a diagnosis of Guillain-Barré syndrome, was selected as the 2020 George Halas Award winner by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA).
Frederick, the 52nd Halas Award winner, is the second member of the Cowboys franchise to receive the honor from the PFWA, joining Roger Staubach (1980).
Other 2020 nominees for the Halas Award were Baltimore Ravens tight end coach Bobby Engram, Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman Everson Griffen, Los Angeles Chargers tackle Russell Okung and Raiders tight end Darren Waller.
The Halas Award is given to an NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed. The award is named for Halas, a charter member (1963) of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, who was associated with the Chicago Bears and NFL from their inception in 1920 until his death in 1983 as an owner, manager, player and promoter. Halas won 324 games and six NFL titles in 40 seasons as a coach.
The Halas Award is one of the two-oldest awards presented by the PFWA, along with the Dick McCann Award, presented to a reporter who has made a long and distinguished contribution to pro football through coverage.
Frederick was originally selected by the Cowboys in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, and he became the first Cowboys’ rookie in franchise history to start every game at center. He was selected to the PFWA’s 2013 NFL All-Rookie Team, and he was a two-time PFWA All-NFL and All-NFC pick (2014 and 2016). Frederick was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disease that attacks the nervous system, and missed the entire 2018 season. He returned to the field in 2019 to anchor an offensive line that allowed only 23 sacks of Cowboys’ quarterback Dak Prescott. He played a total of 1,117 snaps and did not miss a game. For his efforts, Frederick was selected to the Pro Bowl for the fifth time in his career.
Frederick said he struggled physically throughout the 2019 season and felt like he could not perform to his highest level, and he announced his retirement from pro football in March 2020 at the age of 29.
In his retirement announcement, Frederick wrote, “I started a journey almost two years ago that completely blindsided me. When I developed Guillain-Barré Syndrome, I did not know how to handle things. I was scared. That experience forced me to reevaluate my life priorities. I spent much of that year thinking about both the past and future. I realized how fortunate I was to play a game for a living. I realized how fortunate I was to make friends and become teammates with some great men. Most of all, I realized the importance of my family and how much I want to be there for their peaks and valleys as they were for me. … I was ready for the next stage of my life; however, the competitor in me would not accept going out without returning to the field.
“I made my return to the field, played well overall, and was selected to the Pro Bowl, but it was a difficult year for me. Each day I faced a struggle: I could no longer perform at my highest level. Playing ‘well’ is not what I expect of myself and is not what my teammates deserve. Because of this, I know my days as a football player are done. I am proud of what I have accomplished in my career, and I walk away with my head held high.”
ABOUT THE PFWA: In its 57th season in 2020, 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 and the organization’s 29th president. The Athletic’s Lindsay Jones is the PFWA’s first vice-president, The Athletic’s Dan Pompei is the PFWA’s second vice-president and The Athletic’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.
GEORGE HALAS AWARD WINNERS (To the NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed) Year indicates when award was presented for previous season: 1969 – Joe Namath (New York Jets); 1970 – Gale Sayers (Chicago Bears); 1971 – Tom Dempsey (New Orleans Saints); 1972 – Jimmy Johnson (San Francisco 49ers); 1973 – Mike Tilleman (Atlanta Falcons); 1974 – Dick Butkus (Chicago Bears); 1975 – Rocky Bleier (Pittsburgh Steelers); 1976 – Billy Kilmer (Washington Redskins); 1977 – Tom DeLeone (Cleveland Browns); 1978 – Pat Fischer (Washington Redskins); 1979 – Bert Jones (Baltimore Colts); 1980 – Roger Staubach (Dallas Cowboys); 1981 – Rolf Benirschke (San Diego Chargers); 1982 – Joe Klecko (New York Jets); 1983 – Eddie Lee Ivery (Green Bay Packers); 1984 – Ted Hendricks (Los Angeles Raiders); 1985 – John Stallworth (Pittsburgh Steelers); 1986 – Gary Jeter (Los Angeles Rams); 1987 – William Andrews (Atlanta Falcons); 1988 – Joe Montana (San Francisco 49ers); 1989 – Karl Nelson (New York Giants); 1990 – Tim Krumrie (Cincinnati Bengals); 1991 – Dan Hampton (Chicago Bears); 1992 – Mike Utley (Detroit Lions); 1993 – Mark Bavaro (Cleveland Browns); 1994 – Joe Montana (San Francisco 49ers); 1995 – Dan Marino (Miami Dolphins); 1996 – Larry Brown (Oakland Raiders); 1997 – Jim Harbaugh (Indianapolis Colts); 1998 – Mark Schlereth (Denver Broncos); 1999 – Dan Reeves (Atlanta Falcons); 2000 – Bryant Young (San Francisco 49ers); 2001 – Kerry Collins (New York Giants); 2002 – Garrison Hearst (San Francisco 49ers); 2003 – Robert Edwards (Miami Dolphins); 2004 – Sam Mills (Carolina Panthers); 2005 – Mark Fields (Carolina Panthers); 2006 – Tony Dungy (Indianapolis Colts); 2007 – Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints); 2008 – Kevin Everett (Buffalo Bills); 2009 – Matt Bryant (Tampa Bay Buccaneers); 2010 – Mike Zimmer (Cincinnati Bengals); 2011 – Mike Heimerdinger (Tennessee Titans); 2012 – Robert Kraft (New England Patriots); 2013 – Chuck Pagano (Indianapolis Colts); 2014 – O.J. Brigance (Baltimore Ravens); 2015 – Steve Gleason (New Orleans Saints); 2016 – Eric Berry (Kansas City Chiefs); 2017 – David Quessenberry (Houston Texans); 2018 – Marquise Goodwin (San Francisco 49ers); 2019 – Ryan Shazier (Pittsburgh Steelers); 2020 – Travis Frederick (Dallas Cowboys)