Top Photos of NFL Season Revealed in Hall's 52nd Annual Photo Contest

USA TODAY Sports photographer Isaiah Downing is the winner of the Dave Boss Award of Excellence for his entry in the 52nd annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Photo Contest. His photo (pictured below), titled “Air Allen," was selected by a panel of judges as the Photograph of the Year for the 2019 National Football League Season.

The image depicts Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen diving for a touchdown against Denver Broncos strong safety Will Parks in the fourth quarter the Broncos’ 23-20 win in Denver on Dec. 1, 2019.


Downing, a Colorado native, is a freelance photographer who graduated from the University of Colorado Springs in 2009. He is the team photographer for the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC of the USL and takes assignments through a number of local, regional and national outlets, including USA TODAY Sports, where he has been since 2012. Downing has a vast portfolio, but sports photography is his passion.

The Hall of Fame’s prestigious contest is open to professional photographers on assignment to cover NFL games. Photos taken during the 2019 NFL season, which included Super Bowl LIV and the 2020 Pro Bowl, were eligible.

Downing’s entry was the first-place winner in the Action category, while Patrick Smith of Getty Images was first in the Feature category. His photo, “Mud Mug,” shows guard Mike Person of the San Francisco 49ers covered in mud during a game against the Washington Redskins on Oct. 20, 2019 in Landover, Md.

The judging was conducted via video conference in mid-April by a panel of prominent photo editors and photographers. The judges included John Biever (a longtime NFL photographer), Ben Liebenberg (Director of Photography/Lead Photographer, National Football League), Terrell Lloyd (49ers Sr. Manager Photography Services), John Reid III (Cleveland Browns Gameday photographer) and Dan Szpakowski (Lead Photographer, New York Jets).

The winner of the Dave Boss Award of Excellence traditionally has been honored at the Enshrinee Roundtable, which is scheduled for Aug. 9 as part of the 2020 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Week Powered by Johnson Controls.




List of Winners


Dave Boss Award of Excellence, 2019 (Photo of the Year)

Action Winner – Isaiah Downing – USA TODAY Sports



First Place – Isaiah Downing, USA TODAY Sports, “Air Allen,” Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos, Dec. 1, 2019.

Second Place – Brad Mangin, Sports Illustrated, “Gold Crush,” Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers NFC Championship Game, Jan. 19, 2020.

Third Place – Ric Tapia, National Football League, “Cheetah Catch,” Minnesota Vikings at Kansas City Chiefs, Nov. 3, 2019.

Hon. Mention – Aaron Doster, NFL Focus, “Big Levels Touchdown,” Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals, Nov. 24, 2019.

Hon. Mention – Kara Durrette, Atlanta Falcons, “Afterburners Activate,” Los Angeles Rams at Atlanta Falcons, Oct. 20, 2019.

Hon. Mention – Shawn Hubbard, Shawn Hubbard Photography, “Leaping Lamar”, Green Bay Packers at Baltimore Ravens, Aug. 15, 2019.

Hon. Mention – Joey Pulone, Freelance, “Hollywood Speed, Hollywood Catch,” Tennessee Titans at Baltimore Ravens, Jan. 11, 2020.

Hon. Mention – Jared Wickerham, Pittsburgh City Paper, “Diving JuJu,” Seattle Seahawks at Pittsburgh Steelers, Sept. 15, 2019.

Hon. Mention – Billie Weiss, Getty Images, “Forced Fumble,” New York Giants at New England Patriots, Oct. 10, 2019.

Click to View Best Action Shots of 2019 Gallery



First Place – Patrick Smith, Getty Images, “Mud Mug,” San Francisco 49ers at Washington Redskins, Oct. 20, 2019

Second Place – Shawn Hubbard, Shawn Hubbard Photography, “Rain Game Winner,” San Francisco 49ers at Baltimore Ravens, Dec. 1, 2019.

Third Place – Kiel Leggere, Philadelphia Eagles, “Moment of Clarity,” Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys, Oct. 20, 2019.

Hon. Mention – Benjamin Green, Kansas City Chiefs, “Explosive,” Green Bay Packers at Kansas City Chiefs, Oct. 27, 2019.

Hon. Mention – Mary Holt, Miami Dolphins/Icon Sportswire, “Swimming with Dolphins,” Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins, Nov. 17, 2019.

Hon. Mention – Kirk Irwin, freelance for Getty Images, “That Touchdown Feeling,” Miami Dolphins at Cleveland Browns, Nov. 24, 2019.

Hon. Mention – Sarah Snyder, New York Jets, “Center of Attention,” Oakland Raiders at New York Jets, Nov. 24, 2019.

Hon. Mention – Matt Starkey, Cleveland Browns, “Champs,” Kansas City Chiefs vs. San Francisco 49ers, Super Bowl LIV, Feb. 2, 2020.

Hon. Mention – Matthew Swensen, New York Giants, “The Vet & The Rookie,” Washington Redskins at New York Giants, Sept. 29, 2019.

Hon. Mention – Karen Warren, Houston Chronicle, “Texans Watson downed by Chiefs,” Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs, Jan. 12, 2020.

Click to View Best Feature Shots of 2019 Gallery