PFWA announces 2022 Dick Connor Writing Awards

Greg Bishop of Sports Illustrated won a pair of first-place honors, while Chad Graff of The Athletic, Mike Sielski of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Jenny Vrentas of Sports Illustrated, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Conor Orr of Sports Illustrated also earned first-place awards in the Professional Football Writers of America’s 2022 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 LV in Tampa through Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles.

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 Bill Nunn Jr. Award winner, the Dave Anderson Column Writing Award, named after the New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and the 1998 Nunn 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 Nunn Award in 1990 and the Dave Goldberg Game Story Award, named after the 41-year Associated Press reporter and 2015 Nunn Award honoree.

First place in the Oates Beat Reporting category went to Graff, his first top prize honor in the Connor Writing Awards.

Bishop took first in the Burwell Feature Writing category for “Dak Prescott’s Heal Turn”, a look at the Dallas Cowboys quarterback’s difficult year on and off the field. He also shared first-place honors in the Goldberg Game Story with Orr for a co-bylined story “How the Rams Got Away, Found One Another, Then Found a Way” about the Los Angeles Rams’ victory at home in Super Bowl LVI.

The two first-place awards give Bishop a career total of nine PFWA top awards, including five for game stories (2015-18, 2022), a pair in columns (2018, 2022) and one in news (2016).

Orr earned his first Connor Writing Awards first-place award.

Sielski won first-place honors in the Anderson Column Writing category for “The Eagles misread Carson Wentz as a person and a quarterback. This trade is the result of that failure.” This is Sielski’s first PFWA top writing category honor.

Vrentas, now with the New York Times, was first in the Visser Enterprise News/Features group with “‘This Woman Asked Me What I Was Wearing’”, an analysis of the impact of the cases against Deshaun Watson, and how inaction from the NFL affected women who cooperated with the league’s investigation. This is Vrentas’ third PFWA first-place honor as she won for game stories (2018) and features (2017).

Tomasson took first in the McDonough Breaking News category with “After open-heart surgery, Cameron Smith back in action with Vikings: ‘It felt like home again’”, about Smith’s return to the practice field after being cleared to play after his surgery. Tomasson also won in 2020 for breaking news.

Bishop and Jason Wolf of the Buffalo News each received three individual awards, while Seth Wickersham of ESPN.com earned two awards. In all, 15 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 wins $75.

The awards are named for Connor, the ninth PFWA president (1980-81) and the organization’s 1991 Bill Nunn Jr. 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 2022 Connor Writing Awards were judged by Malcolm Moran, the director of the Sports Capital Journalism Program at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Moran 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 2022 winners follows:

2022 DICK CONNOR WRITING AWARDS

Bob Oates Beat Reporting
1. Chad Graff, The Athletic
2. Zak Keefer, The Athletic
3. Joseph Person, The Athletic

Dave Anderson Column Writing
1. Mike Sielski, Philadelphia Inquirer: The Eagles misread Carson Wentz as a person and a quarterback. This trade is the result of that failure.
2. Seth Wickersham, ESPN.com: Inside the 2021 NFL draft’s toughest decision: The 49ers’ choice at No. 3
3. (tie) Greg Bishop, Sports Illustrated: Sammis Reyes and the Path Never Taken; Ian O’Connor, New York Post: Joe Judge decided his own fate — now John Mara needs to make it official

Bryan Burwell Feature Writing
1. Greg Bishop, Sports Illustrated: Dak Prescott’s Heal Turn
2. Jason Wolf, Buffalo News: ‘He had no memories of it whatsoever’: How Chuck Crist’s family discovered he had CTE
3. Tyler Dunne, GoLongTD.com: The Fight for Erik Kramer’s Life, Part I: A miracle

Lesley Visser Enterprise News/Features
1. Jenny Vrentas, Sports Illustrated: ‘This Woman Asked Me What I Was Wearing’
2. Jason Wolf, Buffalo News: Buffalo Bills fans donated $442,000 to Dalton Foundation. Nearly $100,000 went to management firm
3. Kalyn Kahler, Defector.com: Just How Big A Problem Is Nepotism In NFL Coaching?

Will McDonough Breaking News
1. Chris Tomasson, St. Paul Pioneer Press: After open-heart surgery, Cameron Smith back in action with Vikings: ‘It felt like home again’
2. Seth Wickersham, ESPN.com: Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke angers NFL owners with financial pivot related to lawsuit on St. Louis move, sources say
3. Michael Silver, BallySports.com: Texans chairman Cal McNair uses anti-Asian slur at team event

Dave Goldberg Game Story
1. Greg Bishop and Conor Orr, Sports Illustrated: How the Rams Got Away, Found One Another, Then Found a Way
2. Jason Wolf, Buffalo News: Josh Allen leads seven TD drives as Bills obliterate Patriots, destroy Death Star
3. Ben Shpigel, New York Times: Saints Finally Return Home, to a City That Needed Them

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