From one NFL writer to another: A tribute to SI.com's Peter King
SI.com's Peter King received the Dick McCann Memorial Award
Jerry Jones: Peter 'helped make our game the most popular sport in America'
King is respected not just by NFL players and coaches, but competitors as well
(Editor's Note: To commemorate Peter King receiving the Dick McCann Memorial Award at Pro Football's Hall of Fame ceremonies on Friday, former NFL.com writer Adam Schefter penned this tribute to King for SI.com.)
In this world of Twitter, few people are worthy of more than 140 characters. Peter King is.
But then these days, when anyone can be a reporter, few people are worthy of the Dick McCann Memorial Award that Peter received Friday night, when he went, appropriately, into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Peter was honored then, and he is honored now.
"The thing I have always admired most about Peter King is his love for his work and his genuine enjoyment of being around people who compete [in] the drama of the games," said Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
"He has been a serious contributor to the NFL for more than 20 years, because he has reached out to our fans and helped make our game the most popular sport in America. He has moved through all of the avenues of reaching out to football fans -- newspaper, magazine, television, radio and the Internet -- and our league has been the beneficiary of his dedicated body of work. Passion is an overused term in athletics today, but Peter has it. He brings it to work with him every day."
For years, since he started covering the Bengals for The Cincinnati Enquirer in 1980, Peter has gathered quotes for the newspaper or for his infamous Monday Morning Quarterback column. Now, for a change, the quotes are about him.
"I always look forward to Monday mornings to read the ultimate quarterback of NFL journalism," said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. "Nobody does it better than Peter."
Added Giants president/CEO John Mara: "Peter's passion and enthusiasm for the game of professional football is apparent every time he writes or talks about our league and our game. His devotion and commitment to covering the NFL has earned him a place in the Hall of Fame."
And then there's one of Peter's bosses, the chairman of NBC Sports, Dick Ebersol. "Peter has a natural curiosity and boyish enthusiasm about many things in his life, especially this game that we all love," Ebersol said. "He may be in his early fifties, but he has all of the enthusiasm of that young boy from Connecticut who, from an early age, simply adored sports."
Anyone who has read his work understands. I've known Peter since the early 1990s, but really, in a sense, knew him from reading and studying his coverage of the Giants from 1985 to '89 in Newsday, my hometown paper.
Peter's reporting was accurate, meticulous and, most of all, insightful. In these ways as well as others, Peter provided the blueprints for how reporters should do their jobs.
After Peter switched from covering the Giants to covering the league, he made a vow to himself that he would reach out and get to know three new people from around the league each week. Now, years later, Peter seemingly knows everyone and everyone absolutely knows Peter.
Over time -- which, ironically, is a subject that Peter rails against in print -- he became a towering figure in his profession, an example for others, a man that remained humble when many would not have been.
He works for some of the most prominent media companies in the world -- SI, NBC, Sirius. He mingles with some of the most powerful men in sports. But football fans still can see him for exactly what he is -- as regular as a plain white T (a music group Peter must have downloaded on his iPod). It is yet another reason he is so widely respected.
"I have known Peter for some 25 years and he hasn't changed," said ESPN's Chris Mortensen. "From day one, I've eyewitnessed his passion for his job, the excellence of his world and his love of sport. All of it is only surpassed by the fact that he is one of the best persons in the world and a great family man. He has a tremendous heart for humanity and he's transparent enough to share it with all of his own fan base -- which just happens to include me."
Competitors rarely speak of competitors with such respect. But rarely are competitors like Peter.
Through the years, even to this day, Peter carried himself in a way that made people want to help him as much as he helped others. Just look at this spring. When his Sports Illustrated colleague Paul Zimmerman -- aka Dr. Z -- suffered a stroke last November, Peter organized a fundraiser in May that raised more than $226,000.
Beyond the money, the presence of the men in the room that night -- as much a tribute to Peter as to Paul -- included Ebersol, Yogi Berra, Tom Coughlin, Rex Ryan and many of the men involved in the industry. They did this for Peter largely for one reason: Because Peter would do anything for anybody.
"He may be the single most unselfish and caring human being I've ever encountered in the world of sports," Ebersol said.
Peter is a friend, a mentor, an adviser, and even in the rare instance, a roommate. During the week of Super Bowl XL between Pittsburgh and Seattle in Detroit, Peter gave his brother-in-law -- a big Steelers fan -- his hotel room and wound up crashing in mine. It changed the dynamics of our Super Bowl experience. We stayed up talking most of the night, every night, like two kids in tents on a camping trip.
Then this summer, it was as if we went camping together again. We were at the same training camps in Washington, Westminster, Md., Cortland, N.Y., and then Albany. During our time together in Albany, we had some free time between practices and took our computers to a nearby Starbucks.
Well ... Being with Peter King at a Starbucks in Albany is a bit like being with Larry King at Nate-N-Al's Deli in Beverly Hills. It feels like something big.
Then Saturday, I was having -- what else? -- Starbucks with NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith when Peter walked in. He sat down and joined us, which in an indirect way is one of the highest compliments there is in our business. Very few reporters would be invited to sit in with another reporter on a session with the NFLPA's new executive director. But in my book, and I'd bet most reporter's books, Peter gets to do what he wants. Anytime, anywhere. He is that deserving.
He has this distinction not just for being a great reporter, but for being an even better man. He can derive great pleasure from a simple act of taking a quiet train ride or rave about a trip to Afghanistan as if everyone should want to vacation there. Peter is major league, and yet, he is just as comfortable watching a baseball game in the minor leagues.
Peter doesn't big time anyone, no matter how big time he is.
Just before Friday night's Hall of Fame festivities began, AOL NFL columnist Nancy Gay walked over to the table of Peter's wife, Ann, and told her that her husband was one of her mentors.
Hearing that while sitting at the same table, I leaned over and interjected to Ann that Peter also was one of mine. Then Peter's two daughters, Laura and Mary Beth, piped in that Peter was their mentor, too. And the people he has influenced and touched go well beyond that table.
Peter is beloved by many the way he loves the Boston Red Sox. Now, officially, he has become what everyone who knows him already knew he was. This time, finally, it can be spelled out in 140 characters or less.
Peter King is, in every way, a Hall of Famer.
Adam Schefter starts his job as an NFL Insider for ESPN on Aug. 17. He is the author of the new book, The Class of Football. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Adam_Schefter.
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