One more time -- but surely not the last -- Tom Kowalski will be remembered and honored as one of the all-time best in a fraternity of sports journalists who brought joy, insight and passion to fans with their coverage of professional football.
Kowalski will be presented posthumously with the Dick McCann Award, as voted on by the Pro Football Writers of America, on Friday night as part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s annual enshrinement celebration in Canton, Ohio.
Kowalski died of a heart attack on Aug. 29, 2011. He was 51. His fiancee, Diane Wolan, will accept the McCann Award in Kowalski’s honor at the Enshrinees Gold Jacket Dinner.
The six members of the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2012 receive their official Hall of Fame Jackets at the dinner, which is one of the most prestigious and memorable events on the football calendar because of the pride and emotion felt by those present.
Kowalski covered the Lions for 31 years, beginning midway through the 1981 season as a young reporter for the Oakland Press. He was hired by Booth Newspapers in 1997 and worked for the Booth chain and Mlive.com until his death.
Kowalski enjoyed immense and far-ranging popularity with fans and readers for a style of reporting and analysis that focused on the basics of football, its strategy, and those who played, coached and managed the game.
More than all of that, Kowalski’s goal was to bring that focus to a point so that it could serve those who mattered most to him -- the fans.
He also co-hosted a daily sports-talk show in Detroit on WDFN-AM and was a contributor to FOX 2’s coverage of the Lions. He was a freelance correspondent for many years for the Sporting News.
Nicknamed “Killer,” Kowalski’s determination and passion to gain insight into every facet of the game of football earned respect from the players and coaches he covered -- even though they often felt the sting of his critical analysis.
Among the many honors Kowalski has received since his death, the Detroit Lions named the media work room at their Allen Park headquarters in his name.
“They don’t give that award out lightly,” Lions Coach Jim Schwartz said of the McCann Award. “You mention some of the guys who have won it in the past, they don’t give it away to just anybody that doesn’t know football.
“Tom always made it his business not just to write articles, but to write accurate articles, and he worked very hard to get it right and understand the game. I think that commitment is reflected in him winning the award. It’s well-deserved.”
“Tom deserved any award that’s in his name,” Hanson said. “He was one of the few guys I think that got it, football. Lots of guys wrote. but didn’t always have insight. He was one of the select few reporters who had some insight into what was going on in the locker room and on the field.
“Guys respected him for that. He liked being here and figuring out what was going on. He really wanted to know what was happening.”
As those who knew him best -- especially media members who competed against him -- he did.