NOTE: This is the last of five major off-field awards to be presented this week by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA).
MLive.com’s TOM KOWALSKI SELECTED AS PFWA’S 2012 DICK McCANN AWARD WINNER
Kowalski, the 44th McCann Award winner, was a Lions’ beat writer for 32 years. He started at the Oakland (Mich.) Press in 1978, moved to the Booth Newspapers chain in 1997, and he was the star attraction at the chain’s website, MLive.com. He also co-hosted a daily sports talk radio show on WDFN 1130-AM “The Fan” in Detroit, contributed to FOX 2 WJBK-TV Lions coverage in Detroit and wrote pieces for The Sporting News. Kowalski, 51, passed away suddenly Aug. 29, 2011 at his home.
The McCann Award is given to a reporter who has made a long and distinguished contribution to pro football through coverage. The award is named for McCann, who was the first director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame (1962-67). McCann was a longtime reporter in New York with several newspapers, the Newspaper Enterprise Association and King Features Syndicate. After a stint in the Navy in World War II, he was a sports columnist for the Washington Times-Herald in 1945. A year later, he joined the Washington Redskins as publicity director and was the club’s general manager from 1947-62 before taking the job with the Hall of Fame before its’ 1963 opening.
The McCann Award will be presented to Kowalski posthumously during the Enshrinees’ Gold Jacket Dinner at the Memorial Civic Center and Cultural Center on Friday, Aug. 3, 2012 in Canton, Ohio, during the 2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival.
Bill Emkow, director of state news for MLive.com, said of Kowalski, “It is such an honor for the PFWA to recognize the lifetime accomplishments of a ground-breaking reporter like Tom Kowalski with the prestigious Dick McCann Award. He constantly redefined himself in each era of journalism that he was a part of, from print, to radio, to TV, to internet and social media. He ended as a larger-than-life entertainer as well as a fearless reporter. He was one of a kind, the likes we may never see again.
“He was great because he deeply cared about what the fans wanted to know. He worked for them. He took the time to listen, and he took their concerns seriously. He frequently took their issues back to the coaches, players and organization for comment. He was born in an era where the reporters and editors dictated news down to the masses, and he redefined himself as the voice of the fans.
“In the end, he was the greatest bridge the Detroit Lions organization ever had with its fans. He was a pioneer in this industry, far more than people realize. He is greatly missed by hundreds of thousands of Lions fans every day around the world, as well as by his friends and family.”
Kowalski was known as “Killer” to his legion of followers. The nickname came from the old professional wrestler “Killer” Kowalski and was bestowed on him by Doug English, a Pro Bowl defensive tackle for the Lions in the 1970s and ’80s, according to Mike O’Hara, retired Detroit News writer, who said of Kowalski, “Tom was a big man, but not only because of his physical stature – 6-foot-7 and somewhere around 300 pounds. He had a big heart and boundless joy and energy for his jobs in the media. He had an old-style newspaperman’s ethic, but with a new-age curiosity that allowed him to adapt and thrive with the advent of technology.
“No writer gets every story or writes a perfect lead every time. But the one thing you could count on from Tom with absolute certainty was that he wrote every story with the faith and conviction that his facts were accurate and it was his best effort for that day.”
The Lions organization that Kowalski extensively covered honored him after his death by renaming the media room at the club’s Allen Park facility the “Tom Kowalski Press Room”, a portion of proceeds from the club’s home opener was donated to his favorite charities and the club created an annual Tom Kowalski Scholarship for Lions’ interns as he was known for taking them under his wing over the years as he did with young reporters. He was further honored across the league at Lions’ 2011 games as his press box seat at Ford Field and on the road was left open by club PR directors in tribute.
Kowalski is the second Detroit-area writer to receive the McCann Award as the Detroit News’ Jerry Green was the 2005 McCann recipient.
The Tom Kowalski Foundation was started by his close friends in order to continue to support his favorite charities. For more information, visit KillerCares.org.
ABOUT THE PFWA: 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 on a daily basis. The Buffalo News’ Mark Gaughan, who covers the Buffalo Bills, is the organization’s president for 2011-13. Follow the PFWA on Twitter at @PFWAwriters.
DICK McCANN AWARD WINNERS (To a reporter who has made a long and distinguished contribution to pro football through coverage): 1969 – George Strickler (Chicago Tribune); 1970 – Arthur Daley (New York Times); 1971 – Joe King (New York World Telegram & Sun); 1972 – Lewis “Tony” Atchison (Washington Star); 1973 – Dave Brady (Washington Post); 1974 – Bob Oates (Los Angeles Times); 1975 – John Steadman (Baltimore News-American); 1976 – Jack Hand (Associated Press); 1977 – Art Daley (Green Bay Press-Gazette); 1978 – Murray Olderman (Newspaper Enterprise Association); 1979 – Pat Livingston (Pittsburgh Press); 1980 – Chuck Heaton (Cleveland Plain Dealer); 1981 – Norm Miller (New York Daily News); 1982 – Cameron Snyder (Baltimore Sun); 1983 – Hugh Brown (Philadelphia Bulletin); 1984 – Larry Felser (Buffalo News); 1985 – Cooper Rollow (Chicago Tribune); 1986 – William Wallace (New York Times); 1987 – Jerry Magee (San Diego Union); 1988 – Gordon Forbes (USA Today); 1989 – Vito Stellino (Baltimore Sun); 1990 – Will McDonough (Boston Globe); 1991 – Dick Connor (Denver Post); 1992 – Frank Luksa (Dallas Morning News); 1993 – Ira Miller (San Francisco Chronicle); 1994 – Don Pierson (Chicago Tribune); 1995 – Ray Didinger (Philadelphia Daily News); 1996 – Paul Zimmerman (Sports Illustrated); 1997 – Bob Roesler (New Orleans Times-Picayune); 1998 – Dave Anderson (New York Times); 1999 – Art Spander (Oakland Tribune); 2000 – Tom McEwen (Tampa Tribune); 2001 – Len Shapiro (Washington Post); 2002 – Edwin Pope (Miami Herald); 2003 – Joel Buchsbaum (Pro Football Weekly); 2004 – Rick Gosselin (Dallas Morning News); 2005 – Jerry Green (Detroit News); 2006 – John McClain (Houston Chronicle); 2007 – John Clayton (ESPN.com); 2008 – Len Pasquarelli (ESPN.com); 2009 – Peter King (Sports Illustrated); 2010 – Peter Finney (New Orleans Times-Picayune); 2011 – Bob McGinn (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel); 2012 – Tom Kowalski (MLive.com).