Zak Keefer of The Athletic, Ian O’Connor of ESPN.com, Jason Wolf of the Buffalo News, Tim Graham of The Athletic, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Zach Berman of The Athletic all won first place honors in their respective categories in the Professional Football Writers of America’s 2020 Dick Connor Writing Awards.
The Connor Awards encompass beat reporting, columns, features, enterprise news/features, breaking news, and game stories written by PFWA members from post-Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta through Super Bowl LIV in Miami.
The Connor Award categories are named for some of the renowned pro football writers who chronicled the NFL over its history: the Bob Oates Beat Reporting Award, named in honor of the Los Angeles Times reporter and the PFWA’s 1974 Dick McCann Award winner, the Dave Anderson Column Writing Award, named after the New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and the 1998 McCann Award honoree, the Bryan Burwell Feature Writing Award, named in honor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and New York Daily News writer and columnist, the Lesley Visser Enterprise News/Features Award, named after the pioneering football writer who became the NFL’s first female beat reporter in 1976 at the Boston Globe and who later worked for CBS, the Will McDonough Breaking News Award, named after the Boston Globe reporter and columnist who went on to a decorated career in TV journalism and who received the McCann Award in 1990 and the Dave Goldberg Game Story Award, named after the 41-year Associated Press reporter and 2015 McCann Award honoree.
First place in the Oates Beat Reporting category went to Keefer. This is Keefer’s first top prize in the Connor Writing Awards.
O’Connor took first place in the Anderson Columns category for “Cherry Starr will watch football without the love of her life”. O’Connor has won the column competition the last two years and three times overall (2017, 2019 and 2020). He has four PFWA first-place awards all-time as he also earned top honors in features in 2016.
Wolf won first place honors in the Burwell Feature Writing category for “Ty Nsekhe’s untold journey from behind bars to the Bills”. This is Wolf’s first PFWA first-place award.
Graham was first with “What can be done to bolster the pipeline of minority coaches on offense” in the Visser Enterprise News/Features contest. This is Graham’s second first-place award in enterprise features (2018) and third PFWA top honor overall (2018 – news).
Tomasson, for “Vikings teammates saddened by shootings back home in El Paso, Dayton”, took first prize in the McDonough Breaking News category. This is Tomasson’s first top honor in the PFWA’s Connor Writing Awards.
First place in the Goldberg Game Story category went to Berman with “First playoff snaps for Carson Wentz and Josh McCown were significant for different reasons”. This is Berman’s first PFWA first-place finish.
Seven journalists each received two individual awards: Greg Bishop of Sports Illustrated, Berman, Graham, Keefer, John Kryk of the Toronto Sun, O’Connor and Tomasson. In all, 14 different PFWA members received a first-, second- or third-place award.
Prizes in the beat reporting contest are $500 for first place, $250 for second and $125 for third. In the remaining categories, first place receives $250, second place earns $125 and third place has a $75 award.
The awards are named for Connor, the ninth PFWA president (1980-81) 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. A long-time PFWA officer, Connor also served as secretary-treasurer, and later, the organization’s vice-president.
The 2020 Connor Writing Awards were judged by Malcolm Moran, the director of the Sports Capital Journalism Program at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, who has directed sports journalism programs for more than a decade after a career as an award-winning reporter and columnist at the New York Times, USA Today and other publications.
The full list of the 2020 winners follows:
2020 DICK CONNOR WRITING AWARDS
Bob Oates Beat Reporting
1. Zak Keefer, The Athletic
2. Zach Berman, The Athletic
3. Rob Demovsky, ESPN.com
Dave Anderson Column Writing
1. Ian O’Connor, ESPN.com: Cherry Starr will watch football without the love of her life
2. Greg Bishop, Sports Illustrated: Richard Sherman’s competitiveness proves the haters wrong
3. Chris Tomasson, St. Paul Pioneer Press: Micah Abernathy’s powerful family legacy
Bryan Burwell Feature Writing
1. Jason Wolf, Buffalo News: Ty Nsekhe’s untold journey from behind bars to the Bills
2. Zak Keefer, The Athletic: Four girls in need, a football family and the power of adoption
3. (tie) Tim Graham, The Athletic: Inside the homes of Harry Jacobs and Al Bemiller, Buffalo Bills living with dementia; Ian O’Connor, The Athletic: Two titles, 210 straight starts, one Eli
Lesley Visser Enterprise News/Features
1. Tim Graham, The Athletic: What can be done to bolster the pipeline of minority coaches on offense
2. Seth Wickersham and Michael Rothstein, ESPN.com: Inside the short, unhappy life of the Alliance of American Football
3. (tie) Greg Bishop, Sports Illustrated: Albert Haynesworth doesn’t need your love, just your kidney; John Kryk, Toronto Sun: Nearly all the elite, 21st century quarterbacks played shortstop
Will McDonough Breaking News
1. Chris Tomasson, St. Paul Pioneer Press: Vikings teammates saddened by shootings back home in El Paso, Dayton
2. John Kryk, Toronto Sun: Donald Trump never submitted a binding bid to buy the Bills
3. Dennis Waszak Jr., Associated Press: Jets fire general manager Mike Maccagnan
Dave Goldberg Game Story
1. Zach Berman, The Athletic: First playoff snaps for Carson Wentz and Josh McCown were significant for different reasons
2. Jenny Vrentas, Sports Illustrated: The Chiefs’ seven-year journey to a Super Bowl title
3. Aaron Reiss, The Athletic: The Texans’ collapse against the Chiefs
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. Lindsay Jones (The Athletic) is the PFWA’s first vice-president, Dan Pompei (The Athletic) is the PFWA’s second vice-president and Mike Sando (The Athletic) is the PFWA secretary-treasurer. At-large members include Jeff Legwold (ESPN.com), Charean Williams (ProFootballTalk.com), Jenny Vrentas (Sports Illustrated) and Mike Jones (USA Today). Follow the PFWA at ProFootballWriters.org and on Twitter at @PFWAwriters.