Former Las Vegas Review-Journal NFL reporter Don Banks, who died last August at the age of 57, has been selected as the 2020 Dick McCann Award winner by the Professional Football Writers of America.
The award, which was named after the first director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, is given to a reporter who has made a long and distinguished contribution to pro football through coverage.
Banks had just begun working with the Review-Journal when he died in his sleep on August 4th while at the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction weekend in Canton, Ohio. Banks, who had a 36-year career in sportswriting, is the 52nd McCann Award honoree.
“The impact that Don Banks made on our department in one week was immeasurable,” said Review-Journal Sports Editor Bill Bradley. “We were proud to have him for just a slice of his career and still miss him to this day. He truly was a Hall of Fame reporter and writer.”
Banks began his career covering prep sports as an intern for the St. Petersburg Times, but soon became the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat writer in 1990 before becoming the Minnesota Vikings beat writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune (1996-99) and the St. Paul Pioneer Press (1999-2000). The work he produced at each stop was respected within NFL circles and by colleagues across the country.
“Don was universally respected as a reporter and writer,” said Los Angeles Times NFL reporter Sam Farmer, a longtime friend of Banks. “He had trusted sources in every NFL franchise.”
Banks soon caught the attention of the editors at Sports Illustrated, and in 2000 he was hired by SI.com as an NFL reporter.
“He had this ability to identify a small news item that might otherwise go unnoticed and fit it like a puzzle piece into a larger mosaic,” said Farmer. “So if a trend was happening, he was on the leading edge.”
While at SI, Banks curated a Sunday evening “Snap Judgments” column in which he riffed off observations from that day’s games.
“You could always count on his columns to cut through the PR spin and the surface takes,” longtime NFL writer Peter King said in a statement. “His Sunday night NFL column was the only piece of required reading passed around the set of ‘Football Night in America’ at NBC in its early days because NBC’s Dick Ebersol valued his instant interpretation of what happened that day in the NFL.”
Over the years, Banks also wrote about pro football for NFL.com, Bleacher Report, Patriots.com and The Athletic. His journey led him to the Review-Journal, which was putting together its NFL coverage staff in preparation for the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas and hired Banks as its NFL reporter.
Banks’ first story for the Review-Journal was published hours before he died.
“I want to express my sincere appreciation and thanks to the PFWA for recognizing Don with this award, as well as to the loyal readers who supported him throughout his career,” said Alissa Banks, Don’s widow, in a statement. “Don’s work was his passion, and he would truly be humbled by this recognition. I choose to think that he is celebrating this great honor right along with those who love and miss him.”