Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle, Tim Graham of The Athletic, Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal, Nate Taylor of The Athletic, Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com and Jason Wolf of the Arizona Republic earned first-place awards in the Professional Football Writers of America’s 2023 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 LVI in Los Angeles through Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Arizona.
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 Taylor, his first top prize honor in the Connor Writing Awards.
Branch took first in the Burwell Feature Writing category for “As pastor to 49ers, Warriors and San Quentin, he’s a living lesson on second chances”. This is Branch’s first PFWA top writing award.
Graham won first-place honors in the Goldberg Game Story category for “Bills can’t reach finish line but survive inconceivable season”. This is Graham’s fifth PFWA top honor as he previously won the Visser Enterprise News/Features category (2020), Enterprise Features (2018), News (2018) and Game Stories (2011).
Ridenour earned first place in the Anderson Column Writing category for “Browns’ Deshaun Watson trade triggers past for sexual assault victims. I am one of them”. This is Ridenour’s first PFWA writing award top honor.
Weinfuss earned his first career PFWA top honor in the McDonough Breaking News category with “Cardinals assistant coach Sean Kugler fired for groping woman, sources say”.
Wolf won the Visser Enterprise News/Features top prize with his series, “Mismanagement of the Year”. This is Wolf’s second PFWA top honor as he took first in the Burwell Feature Writing category in 2020.
Taylor and Dan Pompei of The Athletic each earned two individual awards. In all, 17 different PFWA members received a first-, second- or third-place award.
Prizes in the Oates 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 2023 Connor Writing Awards were judged by J.A. Adande and Vicki Michaelis, Adande is the director of sports journalism at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. Adande previously worked for ESPN, Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and the Chicago Sun-Times during his career. Michaelis is the director of the John Huland Carmical Chair of Sports Journalism and Society at the University of Georgia. She has worked for USA Today, the Denver Post and the Palm Beach Post.
The full list of the 2023 winners follows:
2023 DICK CONNOR WRITING AWARDS
Bob Oates Beat Reporting
1. Nate Taylor, The Athletic
2. Jourdan Rodrigue, The Athletic
3. Zak Keefer, The Athletic
Dave Anderson Column Writing
1. Marla Ridenour, Akron Beacon Journal: Browns’ Deshaun Watson trade triggers past for sexual assault victims. I am one of them
2. Michael Silver, San Francisco Chronicle: Tom Brady struggled in Levi’s, but could he come back in 2023 as a 49er?
3. Paul Dehner Jr., The Athletic: Zac Taylor shows nation humanity Bengals have long valued, admired
Bryan Burwell Feature Writing
1. Eric Branch, San Francisco Chronicle: As pastor to 49ers, Warriors and San Quentin, he’s a living lesson on second chances
2. Dan Pompei, The Athletic: ‘I pushed myself to the limit’: Bears great Steve McMichael, as tough as they come on the field, is in the fight of his life
3. Dan Pompei, The Athletic: Lions coach Dan Campbell, ‘Hard Knocks’ star, is confident and (mostly) composed
Lesley Visser Enterprise News/Features
1. Jason Wolf, Arizona Republic: Mismanagement of the Year (series)
2. Seth Wickersham, ESPN.com: Andrew Luck finally reveals why he walked away from the NFL
3. Ken Belson and Jenny Vrentas, New York Times: Hamlin’s injury highlights precarious position of many young NFL players
Will McDonough Breaking News
1. Josh Weinfuss, ESPN.com: Cardinals assistant coach Sean Kugler fired for groping woman, sources say
2. Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Steelers great Franco Harris dies at age 72
3. Clarence Hill Jr., Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Former Dallas Cowboys RB Marion Barber found dead in his apartment by Frisco police
Dave Goldberg Game Story
1. Tim Graham, The Athletic: Bills can’t reach finish line but survive inconceivable season
2. Nate Taylor, The Athletic: With revenge on their minds, Chiefs’ O-line dominates Bucs in statement victory
3. Chad Graff, The Athletic: The story behind Marcus Jones’ season-saving punt return for the Patriots