The late Tom Kowalski, a Detroit Lions
beat reporter for more than three decades, has been selected as the 2012 Dick McCann Award winner by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA).
Kowalski 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 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. The event occurs on the eve of the Enshrinement. The six-member Class of 2012 – Jack Butler, Dermontti Dawson, Chris Doleman, Cortez Kennedy, Curtis Martin, and Willie Roaf – will be formally enshrined into the Hall of Fame on Saturday, Aug. 4.
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,” continued Emkow. “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 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.
“Tom was a big man, but not only because of his physical stature – 6-foot-7 and somewhere around 300 pounds,” commented O’Hara. “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 Lounge”, 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.
Watch video honoring 2012 McCann Award winner Tom Kowalski>>>
See complete list of McCann Award winners, 1969-2012>>>
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