2021 PFWA Off-Field Award nominees announced

Each year, the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) vote for several off-field awards given to people working in or associated with the NFL. The 2021 Off-Field Awards balloting is underway through June 3, with the final results announced beginning June 7.

The awards the PFWA membership will vote on:

George Halas Award (NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed)

Good Guy Award (NFL player for his qualities and professional style in helping pro football writers do their jobs)

Career Achievement Award (Reporter who has made a long and distinguished contribution to pro football through coverage)

Jack Horrigan Award (League or club official for his or her qualities and professional style in helping the pro football writers do their job)

Pete Rozelle Award (NFL club public relations staff that consistently strives for excellence in its dealings and relationships with the media)

Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Award (Lifetime achievement as an assistant coach in the NFL)

Terez A. Paylor Emerging Writer Award

Here are the biographies of the 2021 nominees in each category.

George Halas Award (NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed):

LB Darius Leonard, Indianapolis Colts — Leonard has been able to excel on the field despite dealing with depression and anxiety over the loss of his brother Keivonte Waters. He made his struggle public last season and has become an advocate for mental health.

Head Coach Ron Rivera, Washington Football Team — Rivera was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in his neck last August. Over seven weeks during the season, he received 35 proton therapy treatments and three chemotherapy cycles. Rivera lost more than 30 pounds and had to receive IV treatments at halftime of games, but he never missed a game while leading WFT to the playoffs in his first year as head coach.

QB Alex Smith, Washington Football Team — Smith never was supposed to play again after suffering a spiral and compound fracture to his fibula and tibia, and subsequently developing a flesh-eating disease and sepsis. He endured 17 surgeries and four hospital stays, and at one point doctors suggested amputation. Smith returned to the field two years after his injury in 2020, starting six games and winning five of them, including the victory that clinched the NFC East title.

RB James White, New England Patriots — The running back lost his father, Tyrone White, in a car accident shortly before the Patriots played the Seahawks Sept. 20. His mother, Lisa White, also was left in critical condition. After being inactive for two games, White returned to the field and continued in his role as the Patriots’ nickel running back.

Good Guy Award (NFL player for his qualities and professional style in helping pro football writers do their jobs):

QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (retired) — Brees was nominated for his ability to consistently address all of the questions about on-the-field issues with the team week-to-week in a season as he also dealt with an injury and the public uncertainty of his playing future.

DE Calais Campbell, Baltimore Ravens — Campbell was consistently nominated for his willingness to provide depth and analysis in his answers as well as participate in as many 1-on-1 interviews as are requested.

QB Philip Rivers, Indianapolis Colts (retired) — Rivers was nominated for the ability to consistently tackle all topics, even in a Zoom setting, and offer answers with perspective, wit and originality.

CB Logan Ryan, New York Giants — Ryan was cited for being “one of the most accessible and thoughtful players through the entire season … particularly impactful when openly addressing his wife’s miscarriage that also nearly cost her her life.”

S Justin Simmons, Denver Broncos — Simmons was cited for consistently being available in a Zoom-filled season and for the depth and context of his answers on topics ranging from all things football to his impending free agency before being re-signed by the Broncos to social justice initiatives.

Career Achievement Award (Reporter who has made a long and distinguished contribution to pro football through coverage) NOTE – The PFWA board is currently reviewing the name of the career achievement award.

Jarrett Bell — Bell has covered the NFL for USA Today since 1993, and he is currently the paper’s NFL columnist. He previously served as a contributor at ESPN (2013-2017), primarily featured as a panelist on the former NFL Insiders show and SportsCenter. In addition to winning dozens of in-house awards for USA Today, he won a first-place honor from the Associated Press Sports Editors in 2020 and has received multiple Dick Connor Writing Awards from the PFWA. Bell previously covered the San Francisco 49ers for The Marin Independent Journal (1990-92) and was editor of The Dallas Cowboys Weekly (1989). He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and contributors committee, and he was part of the blue-ribbon panel that selected the NFL 100 All-Time Team.

Vic Carucci — Carucci is in his fifth decade of covering the NFL as a writer and broadcaster, and is currently covering the Buffalo Bills and the league for The Buffalo News, as well as serving as a co-host on SiriusXM NFL Radio. He returned to the News in 2014, after previously working for the newspaper for 17 years (1982-99) during the Bills’ Super Bowl era. In between his stints in Buffalo, he worked as a national editor at NFL.com for 12 years (1999-2011) and as a senior editor with the Cleveland Browns (2011-14). He began covering the NFL as the Philadelphia Eagles beat writer at the Courier-Post (N.J.) from 1979-81. Carucci has authored 10 books about football, including multiple New York Times bestsellers, was president of the PFWA during the 1993-94 seasons and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s selection committee.

Bob Glauber — Glauber has covered the NFL since 1985, and he has worked with Newsday since 1989. He covered the Giants for Gannett Westchester-Rockland Newspapers from 1985-89, and he moved to Newsday to cover the Jets, Giants and the NFL at-large in 1989. In 1992, He became the paper’s NFL columnist and has remained in that role for 29 seasons. Voted the NSMA New York State Sportswriter of the Year in 2011 and 2015 and the top New York State sports columnist by the NY APSE in 2011 and 2012, Glauber won first-place national APSE awards for football-related work on concussions in 1996 and life after football in 2018. He has won several PFWA Dick Connor Writing Awards, and is the author of two books: “Guts and Genius: The Story of Three Unlikely Coaches Who Came to Dominate the NFL in the ’80s” and the upcoming “The Forgotten First” about the reintegration of the NFL. Glauber is a longtime member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee, and he served as PFWA president for the 2018-20 NFL seasons.

Jeff Legwold — Legwold has written about the NFL since 1988, and he is currently a senior writer for ESPN.com. He covered the Broncos for nine years for the Denver Post (2004-09) and Rocky Mountain News (2009-13) before joining ESPN.com in 2013 as the Broncos’ reporter. Prior to his time in Denver, he covered the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans for The Tennessean (1995-2004), the Buffalo Bills for the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle and the Pittsburgh Steelers for Gannett Newspapers. Legwold represents Denver on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee, and he is part of the senior selection committee. Legwold was the PFWA president for the 2015-16 seasons.

Barry Wilner — Wilner has been covering the NFL for The Associated Press since 1985, helping lead and organize the national and local coverage while also covering the league’s news and events on a national scale. He has also regularly broken stories for the AP during that time, using his numerous connections he has made in league circles over the last 35 years. Wilner first covered the New York Jets as the AP’s beat writer from 1985-2004. He added national duties in 1988, also covering NFL-wide news and events, while also staying on top of the Jets beat. Wilner switched to covering the NFL as a whole in 2005, and he eventually took over as the AP’s point man for all things NFL when the late Dave Goldberg retired in 2009, and he has served in that role since. He has staffed the last 35 consecutive Super Bowls for AP, oversees the AP postseason awards voting and is a longtime Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee member.

Jack Horrigan Award (League, club or other official for his or her qualities and professional style in helping the pro football writers do their job):

GM Brandon Beane, Buffalo Bills — Beane makes himself available to beat reporters – especially on newsworthy matters when it matters most – and has been thoughtful and straightforward in his interactions with the media.

Owner/President/GM Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys — Since purchasing the Cowboys in 1989, Jones has been one of the most quotable and available owners in the league, and his unabashed opinions have provided writers with plenty of material over the years.

VP, Communications Brian McCarthy, NFL — In his 27 years at the NFL, McCarthy has become an indispensable source of information and assistance for football writers covering a variety of league matters.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills, NFL — In a year unlike any other due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sills consistently addressed the media to answer questions about an issue that dominated everyday life.

Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, NFLPA — Smith was front and center in the union’s Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations, and regularly addressed PFWA members in virtual news conferences to discuss player-related matters.

EVP, Football Operations Troy Vincent, NFL — Vincent is the league’s point man for on-field issues, including rules changes and adjustments, and he has become an important voice in promoting diversity hiring for teams and the NFL.

Pete Rozelle Award (NFL club public relations staff that consistently strives for excellence in its dealings and relationships with the media):

Denver Broncos — Chief communications officer Patrick Smyth and his staff of Erich Schubert, Seth Medvin and Aspen Odom do a terrific job on a consistent basis. Denver has won the Rozelle Award three times (1990, 2014 and 2016).

New England Patriots — The Patriots have enjoyed unprecedented success in the Super Bowl era, and vice president of media and community relations Stacey James has been there for all six title runs. James and his staff of Aaron Salkin, Michael Jurovaty and Anne Noland have worked more Super Bowls than any staff in the league. The Patriots are a Rozelle finalist for the third straight season and have yet to win the award.

Pittsburgh Steelers — Under director of communications Burt Lauten and his staff of Michael Bertsch, Angela Tegnelia and Alissa Cavaretta, the Steelers communications department continues to rank among the best in the business. Pittsburgh is a two-time Rozelle Award winner (1991 and 2015).

Tampa Bay Buccaneers — VP of communications Nelson Luis and his staff of Michael Pehanich, Chris King, Andrew Holman and Danielle Burns had a Super season in 2020. Tampa Bay is a two-time Rozelle Award winner (1998 and 2003).

Tenneseee Titans — Senior director of communications Robbie Bohren and his staff of Dwight Spradlin, Jared Puffer, Kate Guerra and Kim Smith received strong support from PFWA members. The Titans won their only Rozelle Award to date in 2000.

Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Award (Lifetime achievement as an assistant coach in the NFL) — TWO RECIPIENTS IN 2021:

Rod Marinelli — Marinelli is entering his 26th season as a NFL coach, and his second as the defensive line coach for the Las Vegas Raiders. He spent seven years (2013-19) with the Dallas Cowboys as defensive coordinator (promoted in 2014) and defensive line coach. He entered the NFL as a defensive line coach, and later assistant head coach, for Tampa Bay (1996-2005). After three seasons as Detroit head coach (2006-08), he was Chicago’s assistant head coach/defensive line coach in 2009, and was promoted to assistant head coach/defensive coordinator (2010-12). A premier defensive line coach, the Buccaneers led the NFL in overall sacks during his tenure there, and the Bears led the league in interceptions (24) and takeaways (44) in 2012. In Dallas, the Cowboys defense improved each year, including a jump from 32nd to 19th in 2014, when Dallas went 12-4, and finishes of eighth (2017) and seventh (2018). Marinelli has coached in one Super Bowl (XXXVII) with Tampa Bay, when the Buccaneers dominated Oakland for the title.

Bobb McKittrick — McKittrick, who developed athletic, undersized offensive lines during 21 years and five Super Bowl titles with San Francisco, spent 28 years as a NFL offensive line coach. His 49ers lines protected quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young during 21 seasons (1979-99) with San Francisco. Sports Illustrated said McKittrick “may be the most successful position coach of his era” since “few coaches have done so much with so little.” McKittrick was an assistant for the Los Angeles Rams (1971-72) and San Diego (1974-78) before joining the 49ers in 1979. He coached in five Super Bowls (XVI, XIX, XXIII, XXIV, XXIX) with the 49ers, winning all five, and was one of only four 49ers coaches who were part of all five title teams.

Floyd Peters — Peters, a three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle as a player, served as an assistant coach in the NFL – mostly as a defensive coordinator – for 23 seasons. His first stop was with the New York Giants (1974-75), followed by stints with San Francisco (1976-77), Detroit (1978-81), St. Louis Cardinals (1982-85), Minnesota (1986-1990), Tampa Bay (1991-94) and Oakland (1995-96). Peters – a.k.a. Sgt. Rock – had a big impact as a defensive coach. From the “Gold Rush” in San Francisco, to the “Silver Rush” in Detroit, to those record-setting lines in St. Louis and Minnesota, Peters found the best way to use his personnel wherever he went.

John Teerlinck — Considered one of the greatest defensive line coaches in NFL history, Teerlinck worked for NFL teams over 23 seasons. He began his NFL coaching career with Cleveland (1989-90), and he followed with stops with the Los Angeles Rams (1991), Minnesota (1992-94), Detroit (1995-96), Denver (1997-2001) and Indianapolis (2002-11). He coached 31 Pro Bowl players and four defensive MVPs. Dwight Freeney, who had 107.5 sacks in 11 seasons under Teerlinck with the Colts, said, “He was an innovator, and his teachings were way ahead of his time.” He coached in four Super Bowls (XXXII, XXXIII with Demver and XLI, XLIV with Indianapolis), and was part of three title teams – two with the Broncos and one with the Colts. The NFL’s best defensive line coach award is named after Teerlinck.

Bobby Turner — Turner is in his 26th season as a NFL assistant coach in 2021, and his fifth as San Francisco’s running backs coach. Turner is responsible for overseeing three of the top nine rookie rushing seasons in the NFL since 1970 with Alfred Morris, Clinton Portis and Mike Anderson. He also served as running backs coach with Atlanta (2015-16), Washington (2010-14) and Denver (1995-2009). In Denver, he worked with top-shelf Broncos backs including Terrell Davis, Anderson, Olandis Gary, Portis, among others, as the franchise was in the NFL’s top five in rushing during 10 of his 15 seasons there. He has coached in four Super Bowls with three different franchises (XXXII, XXXIII with Denver, LI with Atlanta and LIV with San Francisco) and has a pair of victories with the Broncos.

Terez A. Paylor Emerging Writer Award

Michael-Shawn Dugar, Seattle Seahawks beat reporter, The Athletic — Dugar was nominated because of his “strong drive” and ability to build relationships on his beat. Dugar graduated from Washington State University in 2014 and has been covering the Seahawks since 2018. Notable work: https://theathletic.com/1806911/2020/05/14/brandon-browner-from-the-legion-of-boom-to-inmate-no-bl707/

Jori Epstein, Cowboys/NFL reporter, USA Today — Peers noted that Epstein is “ambitious and creative” in her Cowboys and NFL coverage. Epstein, who graduated from the University of Texas in 2016, previously worked at the Dallas Morning News, and this spring, published her first book, “The Upstander”. Notable work: https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/sports/ncaaw/big12/2020/08/05/marlene-stollings-texas-tech-program-culture-abuse-players-say/5553370002/

Amie Just, Saints beat reporter, New Orleans Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate — Just is a tenacious reporter with an unrelenting quest for news, and has found ways to stand out in a competitive and difficult market. Just graduated from the University of Kansas in 2017, and previously covered LSU and the University of Montana. Notable work: https://www.nola.com/sports/saints/article_6a52b904-1934-11eb-8969-d777f3656972.html

Jourdan Rodrigue, Los Angeles Rams beat reporter, The Athletic — Rodrique distinguished herself in 2020 for her unique and creative coverage during her first season on the Rams’ beat, despite the lack of traditional access. Rodrigue graduated from Arizona State in 2014 and previously covered the Carolina Panthers for the Charlotte Observer and The Athletic. Notable work: https://theathletic.com/2507342/2021/04/12/inside-the-rams-major-changes-to-their-draft-process-and-why-they-wont-go-back-to-normal/

Cam Wolfe, Miami Dolphins beat reporter, ESPN.com — A peer noted Wolfe’s “nose for news”  and his dual threat ability as a writer and on-camera reporter. Wolfe graduated from the University of Houston in 2015 and previously covered the Broncos for the Denver Post and the Titans for ESPN.com. Notable work: https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/29354971/nfl-quarterback-coach-summit-urges-owners-look-deeper-minority-hires?fbclid=IwAR39PPV5njeTg-LrWlkANpzQeSV1HxPZ06vbXJULltA5fEgBj0FF9T8dNQE

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