Jourdan Rodrigue, The Athletic’s Los Angeles Rams beat reporter, has been selected as the first Terez A. Paylor Emerging Writer Award winner by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA).
The Paylor Award recognizes a rising star in pro football writing, who exemplifies the qualities of Paylor, the former Yahoo! Sports and Kansas City Star football writer, who passed away in February 2021 at the age of 37. Paylor joined the Star after graduating from Howard University in 2006 and took over the Kansas City Chiefs beat in 2013 and would spend the next seven-plus years covering the NFL. He joined Yahoo! Sports in 2018 as a senior writer to cover the league on a national level.
Paylor’s love for football shined through both in his reporting, preparation and writing. He was ambitious, relentless and carried himself with the utmost character. He stood on his convictions and remained undaunted by challenges. He carried himself with the perfect blend of humility and confidence. These traits, and this approach, enabled him to climb the ranks from local reporter to Chiefs beat writer to senior NFL writer and columnist for Yahoo! Sports. His sterling reputation around the league was steadily expanding as players, coaches, team officials, agents and fellow reporters all shared a great respect for him.
Rodrigue 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 she previously covered the Carolina Panthers for the Charlotte Observer and The Athletic.
Among Rodrigue’s notable work from the past year was a series of in-depth stories in which she took readers behind the curtain of the Rams’ scouting process and the team’s innovative use of analytics, the first deep dive into the relationship between Sean McVay and then-defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, and a creative look at Aaron Donald’s dominance. Rodrigue is relentless in her desire to learn more about the players and coaches she covers and always seeks to tell those stories with compassion and humanity.
The other finalists for the 2021 award were Michael-Shawn Dugar (The Athletic), Jori Epstein (USA Today), Amie Just (New Orleans Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate) and Cam Wolfe (ESPN.com).
“It’s fun to watch Jourdan come up with an idea, develop it and write it,” said Ken Bradley, senior editor/NFL of The Athletic, who serves as Rodrigue’s daily editor. “Sometimes it’s a lengthy in-depth piece and other times, it’s simply a story off her daily beat coverage. She cares about every word she writes and wants to give her readers insight into the team she’s covering that can’t be found anywhere else — and she accomplishes that. The most exciting part about working with Jourdan is the ‘what’s next?’”
“What a wonderful honor for Jourdan, who has become a must-read on the Rams beat in just over a year,” said Lisa Wilson, editorial director of The Athletic, who oversees the outlet’s NFL coverage. “She is an excellent reporter and a gifted storyteller. I always learn something from reading her work.”
ABOUT THE PFWA: In its 58th season in 2021, 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. Lindsay Jones of The Athletic is the PFWA president for the 2021-22 seasons and the organization’s 30th president. Jenny Vrentas of Sports Illustrated is the PFWA’s first vice-president, Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News is the second vice-president and Mike Sando of The Athletic is the secretary-treasurer. At-large board members include USA Today’s Mike Jones, ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold, The Athletic’s Dan Pompei and ProFootballTalk.com’s Charean Williams. Follow the PFWA at ProFootballWriters.org and on Twitter at @PFWAwriters.
TEREZ A. PAYLOR EMERGING WRITER AWARD WINNER (Rising star in pro football writing): 2021 – Jourdan Rodrigue (The Athletic)