As winner of the 2018 Dick McCann Award, Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk becomes the first female elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s writers’ wing — and that’s something more than a cherished honor.
It is, as she said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast, the fulfillment of “a lifelong dream.”
You see, when Charean was in the second grade, she told her teacher that her “lifetime goal” was to cover the Dallas Cowboys. Of course, those were the days when there were about as many female beat writers covering NFL teams as there are Lombardi Trophies in Cleveland.
But Charean wasn’t fazed, growing up to overcome numerous obstacles, cover the Cowboys for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and eventually reach Canton — a tribute to her work and determination.
Essentially, she wouldn’t quit when others might have, and look what happened.
“I think it was because it was my dream from the time I was in second grade,” said Williams, in her 25th year of covering the NFL. “I mean, I was working to cover the Dallas Cowboys. That’s what I wanted to do, and no one was going to stop me from getting there. And that’s what I aspired to. So that’s probably what kept me going.”
It wasn’t easy. Once, as a young sportswriter, she was sent to a Texas A&M-Arkansas football game and assigned a feature on then-Razorbacks’ quarterback Quinn Grovey. With female sportswriters forbidden from entering the Arkansas locker room, the Arkansas sports-information director told her to wait outside and that Grovey and the head coach would be brought to her after the game.
So she waited … 10 … 20 … 30 … 40 minutes. When a male reporter saw her and asked what she was doing, she told him — waiting on Grovey and the head coach. The reporter shook his head.
“He said, ‘There’s a back door; they’re gone. There’s no one left in there,’ ” she said. “I was like: How do I tell my sports editor that I didn’t get what he assigned me to get? (The reporter) said, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll give you all the quotes we got in the locker room, and we’ll take care of you.’ That’s some of the kinds of things you went through because they forget about you … because you were unusual.”
She’s unusual, all right. She just made history as the first woman to make it to Canton as a sportswriter.
“It’s kind of unbelievable,” she said. “It is 2018. You’d think a lot of things have been done, and there are no ‘firsts’ left to do. And so it is a huge honor from that standpoint to sort of be … I guess a trailblazer. I don’t feel like one. But in some respects I am.
“I got, obviously, a lot of texts and emails and phone calls and all those sorts of things. But one of the most meaningful came from the sports editor at the Batallion, which is Texas A&M’s school newspaper (and where, as an undergraduate, Charean was an assistant sports editor). It was from a female sports editor, Angel Franco. She texted me and said, ‘I want to be just like you when I grow up. This is what I want to do, and thank you for paving the way.’
“And that meant as much to me as anything that came from Jerry Jones or Jason Witten or other writers or whoever it may be. That just meant a whole bunch to have a young up-and-coming female who wants to go into our business say that. It meant a ton.”
Williams is the first woman and 50th overall recipient of the McCann Award, given annually by the Pro Football Writers Association to a reporter who has made a long and distinguished contribution to pro football through coverage. The award is named after Dick McCann, the first director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame (1962-67).