Charean Williams: 1-on-1 with First Female Sportswriter Voted into Pro Football Hall of Fame
Charean Williams, one of the most honored sportswriters in the country, has a new entry on her already impressive resume: first female sportswriter to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
The Pro Football Writers of America has officially announced that Williams is the winner of The Dick McCann Memorial Award, bestowed annually “for long and distinguished reporting on professional football”. She will be inducted in Canton this summer alongside the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrines.
The award was created in 1969 and named for McCann, the first director of the Hall of Fame. The presentation is made annually at the Pro Football Hall Enshrinement Ceremony. The list of McCann honorees is known as the “writer’s wing” of the Hall of Fame and is a veritable “who’s who” of the greatest writers in football history.
Williams covered the Cowboys’ beat for 17 years for The Ft Worth Star-Telegram and now covers the team as well as other NFL stories for NBC’s Pro Football Talk. Other McCann Award winners that have covered the Dallas Cowboys’ beat for local media include Frank Luksa (Dallas Morning News), Rick Gosselin (Dallas Mornings News), and Ed Werder (ESPN/Dallas Morning News).
Overall, Williams is the second female inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Former TV sideline reporter Lesley Visser was named the first female recipient of the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award by the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
On this very busy day in which Williams is receiving multiple congratulatory calls from colleagues and friends, she took time to visit with 5 Points Blue for an exclusive one-on-one to talk about what it’s like to blaze a trail as a Pro Football Hall of Famer:
CHAREAN WILLIAMS: A writer goes into the Hall of Fame every year sponsored by the Pro Football Writers of America in a vote of its members. I was one of five nominees. On Monday night, I got a call from PFWA president Bob Glauber to tell me that I had won the award. I was truly honored and humbled and surprised.
Q: We’ve been friends for a long time and I know that you want to be known as a great sportswriter, not just as a great “female sportswriter”. But this is a big deal for all females that come after you, the fact that you are now the first female sportswriter inducted in The Pro Football Hall of Fame. So how does it feel to be a trailblazer and a role model?
CHAREAN: No question, you and I both, Kristi, have opened some doors and hopefully some young ladies can look at us and say, ‘Hey, it can be done’. They can say, ‘I can be a sideline reporter for the Cowboys’. Or they can say, ‘I can cover the Cowboys and the NFL as a writer for a newspaper or Web site. I can be a TV doing this type of stuff’. So, I think that’s the biggest thing. Hopefully it inspires young girls. If this is what they want to do, they know it can be done because it’s been done before.
When I was coming up in the business as a sportswriter, I never really thought about the fact that it hadn’t been done before. Writing about sports was just something I wanted to do and thought, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna do it.’ But now I think it’s more reality for young girls. It’s, ‘Hey, this is what I want to be and what I want to accomplish when I grow up’.
Q: Here’s what I love about the fact that you’re going to be in the Hall of Fame: it’s not that you’re a girl, the first female. It’s that you are inspiring to anyone who loves football, male or female, who grew up as a football fan…especially a Cowboys fan! You’re going into the Hall of Fame for your coverage of the team you grew up rooting for, the Dallas Cowboys! That is so cool. Please share the story about the time you were a little kid, growing up in Beaumont, Texas, and you told your teacher you were going to move to Dallas.
CHAREAN: When I was in the second grade, growing up in Beaumont, I asked my teacher, Cindy Bridges, how far it was to Dallas. She answered and asked why I wanted to know. “Because I’m going to marry Roger Staubach,” I said matter of fact. She called the local newspaper which sent a columnist to write a story on “The Dallas Cowboys’ Youngest Fan.” In the article, I said my goal was to cover the Cowboys. That was my lifelong ambition. I just had to take a couple of detours, covering things in other places first.
Q: You were also the first female to vote for members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That is also a really big deal, to be the first female voter. How long have you served as a voting member?
CHAREAN: This is how I always remember it, I started the year that Michael Irvin went in which was 2007. Also, including my time serving as the president of the PFWA, I got to present three people that went into the Hall of Fame for the Dick McCann Award. John McClain (The Houston Chronicle), Peter King (Sports Illustrated), and John Clayton (ESPN) were the people I was fortunate enough to make the presentation for. It was a huge honor to make their presentations, and now that I’m on the other end of that, it’s truly another huge honor.
Q: In those three instances in which that you presented someone into The Pro Football Hall of Fame, was it ever in the back of your mind that, ‘Hey, maybe someday this could be me up here as the award winner’?
CHAREAN: I guess it’s like a player, it crosses your mind after you’ve done it for so many years. This will be my 25thseason covering the NFL. As you get older, it crosses your mind. But back at those times, I was still pretty young into my career and it seemed like that would be a long, long way down the line. And then the years go really fast. Suddenly you’re in your 25thyear. It may have crossed the back of my mind, but to actually have it happen is surreal.
Q: So this summer, in August 2018, your induction will take place during Hall of Fame Weekend festivities in Canton, Ohio, including the big Friday night dinner, right?
CHAREAN: Yes, it should be really fun. I don’t get a gold jacket or a bust put in Canton, but I do get a plaque. And you get to choose how you want to go in. I worked for two different newspapers covering the NFL, The Orlando Sentinel (covering the Tampa Bay Bucs) and The Ft Worth Star-Telegram (covering the Cowboys and NFL beats). Now I’m at NBC’s Pro Football Talk. So, I get to choose among those three, and I have chosen to go in through Pro Football Talk because it’s where I work now and it was my lifeline after I got laid off from The Ft Worth Star-Telegram.
I will be forever grateful for my late boss, Celeste Williams, sports editor of The Ft Worth Star Telegram, for giving me my chance to come back home to Texas and cover the Cowboys for 17 years. It was really, really cool to work for her and to cover the Cowboys for so long. It was a neat experience and my career highlight.
Q: You were one of Jerry Jones’ guests at his private party last summer on the night he received his gold jacket as a Hall of Famer. I remember, because we were watching Justin Timberlake perform at Jerry’s private party.
CHAREAN: (laughing) I won’t be having that type of party, no Justin Timberlake live performance! I might have to go with a Justin Timberlake CD to play, and maybe a few hot dogs underneath the bleachers at the stadium in Canton following the induction!
*On behalf of everyone at 5 Points Blue, our heartfelt congratulations to Charean for this amazing milestone in her career. We also thank her for her contributions to 5PB over the years, whether it be part of a feature/interview, or taking time to join the podcast. To see Charean’s most recent podcast from March, 2018, link here!