Winners of Inaugural 'Awards of Excellence'
20 individuals to be recognized inside Hall of Fame MuseumIndividuals from four groups that work to drive team success within the sport of professional football have been identified for Awards of Excellence under a program the Pro Football Hall of Fame has launched to recognize significant contributors to the game.
“These 20 outstanding Assistant Coaches, Athletic Trainers, Equipment Managers and Public Relations personnel not only helped to determine results on the field, but they also helped to promote the game’s growth, safety and popularity over several decades of devotion to their teams and to the National Football League,” Hall of Fame President Jim Porter said.
Receiving the awards for 2022 are: Assistant Coaches Alex Gibbs, Jimmy Raye, Terry Robiskie, Fritz Shurmur and Ernie Zampese; Athletic Trainers George Anderson, Otho Davis, John Omohundro, Jerry Rhea and Fred Zamberletti; Equipment Managers Sid Brooks, Ed Carroll, Tony Parisi, Dan “Chief” Simmons and Whitey Zimmerman; and Public Relations personnel Joe Browne, Charlie Dayton, Joe Gordon, Jim Saccomano and Gary Wright.
Winners were announced Monday afternoon on “The SiriusXM Blitz” program with hosts Bruce Murray and Rich Gannon. Hall of Fame coach BILL COWHER, a member of the committee that chose the Awards of Excellence winners in the Assistant Coaches category, joined the show to offer insight on the process and to share stories of his experiences with some of the recipients.
The four groups presenting the Awards of Excellence helped to create their own Selection Committees and set their own criteria for choosing their inaugural class members. The Hall of Fame did not participate in any nominating or voting.
The names of the award winners will be placed on display at the Hall of Fame. Award recipients will be invited to the 2022 Enshrinement Week Powered by Johnson Controls and will be recognized in Canton this August at an event to be determined.
Below are brief biographies for the winners:
ALEX GIBBSA coaching veteran of 47 seasons, including 15 years in the college ranks, Gibbs has coached six Pro Bowl offensive linemen, including Hall of Fame tackle Gary Zimmerman and Broncos Ring of Fame center Tom Nalen. His resumé includes Special Assistant to the Head Coach (1988) and Assistant Head Coach (1989) for the Los Angeles Raiders. During his nearly three decades in professional football, his offensive lines have paved the way for 16 total 1,000-yard rushing seasons by 10 different players. He died on July 12, 2021, at the age of 80.
With more than 30 years of NFL coaching experience, Raye held the post of offensive coordinator for several teams, including the Los Angeles Rams (1983-84, 1991), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1985-86), New England Patriots (1990), Kansas City Chiefs (1998-2000), Washington Redskins (2001) Oakland Raiders (2004-05) and San Francisco 49ers (2009-10).
Coached almost 40 seasons in the NFL. He held several roles, including offensive coordinator and interim head coach on two occasions (Miami and Cleveland). Robiskie earned his start in the NFL in 1982 with the then-Los Angeles Raiders, with whom he spent 12 seasons (1982-1993), reaching the playoffs seven times with four division titles and a Super Bowl XVIII ring.
Known as a defensive innovator and tactician during his 24 years of coaching in the National Football League. In 1997, his defense set a modern-era team record for fewest touchdown passes in a season with 10. Blessed with great writing skills, Shurmur penned four books related to defensive coaching. He died on Aug. 30, 1999, at the age of 67.
Ernie Zampese coached 24 years in the National Football League. During his tenure, we was one of them most respected minds in the league as he routinely crafted top ranking potent offenses. He was the offense coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys in 1995 when the team capped its Super Bowl-winning season by beating the Pittsburgh Steelers.
GEORGE ANDERSONFirst athletic trainer in the history of the Raiders franchise and served as Head Athletic Trainer for the team from 1960 to 1994. The creation of the Anderson Knee Stabilizer in the 1970s was among his many contributions to the profession. After graduation from San Jose State, he worked as an athletic trainer in Texas and at USC and UC-Berkeley before joining the Raiders. Anderson was inducted into the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) Hall of Fame in 1986.
Head Athletic Trainer of the Philadelphia Eagles from 1973 to 1995. He was voted into the team's Hall of Fame in 1999. Was a five-time recipient of the National Athletic Trainers Association's (NATA) Professional Trainer of the Year award and is a member of the Athletic Trainers Hall of Fame. From 1971-89, served as the executive director of the NATA; the national headquarters office building in Dallas is named in his honor. Before joining the Philadelphia Eagles, Davis was Head Athletic Trainer for Kent State University and worked at Duke University and the Baltimore Colts. He was a member of the Board of Advisors of the Ed Block Courage Award, PFATS Executive Committee Member and was named to the All-Madden Team in 1999 as the all-time athletic trainer.
Head Athletic Trainer with the St. Louis and Arizona Cardinals from 1971 to 2008. Joined organization in 1967 as an Assistant Athletic Trainer. During his 42 seasons, he was a charter member of PFATS, recipient of the PFATS Distinguished Alumni Award and received the National Football Physicians Society’s Fain Cain Memorial Award. In 1993, Omohundro and his athletic training staff with the Cardinals were the recipients of the Ed Block Courage Award for NFL Athletic Training Staff of the Year.
Head Athletic Trainer for the Atlanta Falcons from 1969 to 1994. Before joining the Falcons, he served as an Assistant Athletic Trainer for the Los Angeles Rams. He previously served as President of the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation. Elected president of the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) and served from 1986-88. Named the NATA Professional Athletic Trainer of the Year in 1979 and 1982. He was inducted into the NATA Hall of Fame in 1985 and the Southwest Athletic Trainers’ Association Hall of Fame in 1987. In 2001, received the Tim Kerin Excellence in Athletic Training Award and in 2004 he was an inductee in the inaugural Georgia Athletic Trainers’ Association Hall of Fame, which also honored him with an annual award in his name. PFATS created the Jerry “Hawk” Rhea Award in his honor that is given to the NFL team physician who has made the greatest contributions to both the NFL and profession of athletic training.
Head Athletic Trainer with the Minnesota Vikings from 1961 to 1998. Served as Coordinator of Medical Services from 1999-2001 and Senior Consultant and Team Historian from 2002-2018 and is a member of the Vikings Ring of Honor. Prior to his decorated career with the Vikings, Fred served as chief physical therapist at Hibbing General Hospital in 1959 and Head Athletic Trainer at the University of Toledo in 1960. He is a member of the Minnesota Athletic Trainers Hall of Fame and received the Professional Athletic Trainer of the Year in 1986 by the Drackett Company of Cincinnati. His Vikings athletic training staff earned the 1996 NFL Athletic Training Staff of the Year award. In 1999, he earned the Fain Cain Memorial Award and was an Honorary Fellow of the Minneapolis Sports Medicine Center.
SID BROOKSServed as the San Diego Chargers’ equipment manager for 27 years (1973 to 2000) and is credited with co-inventing the color facemask, colored football shoes and three-color jersey numbers among other innovations. Prior to joining the Chargers, he spent 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, earning the rank of senior master sergeant. He supervised the Cadet Athletic Supply Branch at the Air Force Academy. He served in the Korean War and Vietnam War. He was awarded numerous awards, including several Most Outstanding Airman of the Year commendations. From 2000-05, served as the director of equipment operations at USC.
After graduating high school in 1964, the Cleveland native joined the Air Force working as an air traffic controller. Upon his discharge from the Air Force, worked as a representative for Olympic Sporting Goods from 1969 to 1982. In 1983, worked as an assistant equipment manager for the Cleveland Browns. From 1984-1990, was the West Coast sales representative for Riddell, covering 13 states, including seven NFL teams, the PAC-10 and numerous colleges and high schools in his territory. Returned to the Cleveland Browns as the head equipment manager from 1990-95, then continued as the head equipment manager of the Baltimore Ravens from 1996 until his retirement in 2012.
Served as the Pittsburgh Steelers equipment manager from 1965-1996. His keen eye for equipment included the tailoring of uniforms and use of two-way carpet tape on the shoulder pads to keep the jerseys tight. Always looked out for each player and any special requests such as customized shoes, neck collars and shoulder pads. His athletic career included being drafted by the Major Junior Ontario Hockey Association in 1949 as a goal tender, playing in nearly 900 games in England, Sweden, Italy, Czechoslovakia and with the Pittsburgh Hornets hockey team. After the Hornets folded, he was hired by the Steelers.
Hired on April 1, 1973, he worked 42 seasons (through 2014) as Head Equipment Manager for the New Orleans Saints. In 1972, he worked as an assistant to his father, Bill Simmons, the equipment manager for the St. Louis Cardinals. Served four years in the U.S. Navy, including a tour in Vietnam. Simmons and his staff were awarded the Whitey Zimmerman Memorial Award. In 2010, he was elected into the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame along with his longtime assistant, Glennon “Silky” Powell. At the 2014 NFL Equipment Managers Meeting, Simmons was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from all 32 teams. Worked a total of 853 games with the Saints, including Super Bowl XLIV.
DAN “CHIEF” SIMMONS
The Atlanta Falcons equipment manager from 1966 to 1994, came to Atlanta after spending four years with the St. Louis football team. His start in professional sports was as a batboy for the St. Louis Browns. In 35 years in the NFL, the veteran of the U.S. Navy and the St. Louis Police Department worked nearly 600 NFL games. When he died in 1994, he was considered the dean of NFL equipment managers. Their annual award is named “The Whitey Zimmerman Equipment Manager of the Year” in his honor.
JOE BROWNEEnded a 50-year career at the National Football League office on March 31, 2016, as the longest-serving employee at the NFL. An active-duty U.S. Marine in the 1960s, Browne joined the NFL in 1970 and held several front office positions under Commissioner Pete Rozelle. In April 1990, Commissioner Paul Tagliabue promoted Browne to vice president – the first person in league history with that title. In 1995, he was promoted again, to senior vice president, and in 2002 was named Executive Vice President of Communications and Government Affairs. His areas of league-wide responsibilities included media relations, public affairs and community relations. He moved to the role of Senior Advisor to Commissioner Roger Goodell in 2010 and spent his last five years with the NFL primarily working with the League’s retired players.
Impressive 40-year NFL career included directing communications departments at the Carolina Panthers after joining the franchise as one of its original executives, the Washington football organization and the Atlanta Falcons. He started his football career as a public relations associate at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976. The press box at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte is named for Dayton, who also earned distinction as the first non-player named to the All-Madden Team.
Hired by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1969, Gordon helped the organization become one of the most respected and popular teams in professional sports. Through the 1970s and ‘80s, with Gordon leading the team’s PR efforts, the Steelers won four Super Bowls and qualified for the playoffs 10 times. Directing the Steelers’ media efforts during this era was a monumental task as the popularity of both the team and the NFL exploded. Perhaps the greatest testament to Gordon’s contribution to the Steelers is that during his PR leadership, 11 Steelers – in addition to owners Art Rooney Sr. and Dan Rooney – eventually would be elected to the Hall of Fame. No NFL PR person has worked with more Hall of Famers.
Worked 36 seasons (1978-2013) leading the public relations efforts as “the voice and memory” of the Denver Broncos. The longest-tenured pro sports administrator in Colorado history, Saccomano retired from the Broncos following the 2013 season before continuing with the club in a consulting role as team historian. He worked 27 Super Bowls – 21 with the NFL’s public relations staff and six with the Broncos – and served on several league-wide committees.
An original Seattle Seahawks staff member in 1976, Wright retired after 32 years as Vice President of Administration and Public Relations in 2008. He remained with the organization as Vice President of Business Operations for the Seattle Sounders until retiring in 2014, when the joint operating agreement between the Seahawks and Sounders ended. After retirement, Wright has served as a Seahawks ambassador and as a Sounders business consultant.
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