Looking back on a decade of sports journalism accolades

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Looking back on a decade of sports journalism accolades

This 2012 CW cover story about boxer Deontay Wilder won a national award. (CW file)

This 2012 CW cover story about boxer Deontay Wilder won a national award. (CW file)

This 2012 CW cover story about boxer Deontay Wilder won a national award. (CW file)

This 2012 CW cover story about boxer Deontay Wilder won a national award. (CW file)

James Ogletree | @jameslogletree, Sports Editor

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Alabama football isn’t the only facet of Crimson Tide athletics to experience success, accolades and national recognition over the last 10 years. 

The student reporters who report on and photograph the University’s 17 NCAA teams have also earned plenty of hardware for their work, earning more than 20 awards and honorable mentions since 2010 at both the regional and national levels.

Marc Torrence, who spent a year each as the assistant sports editor and sports editor of The Crimson White, is the most frequent award recipient on the list. Torrence received five honors for four stories covering three different sports.

His coverage of the 2013 Iron Bowl, entitled the “Nightmare in Jordan-Hare,” won first place in the Best Sports Game Story category from the College Media Association (CMA).

As Auburn’s Chris Davis returned the “Kick Six” for a touchdown, Torrence said it took a moment for the shock to dissipate. When it did, he realized he had witnessed one of the most memorable moments in college football history.

His game story began with him describing one of the stadium security guards trying to hold the Auburn students back from rushing the field, but finally relenting and high-fiving them as they sprinted past.

“I just kind of wrote what I experienced amidst the technical, game-story parts of the story,” Torrence said. “As long as I write what I saw and could accurately paint a picture of what it was like to be there, then that’s the best I can do, and that’s what people want to read about.”

The first three paragraphs of the story capture the feelings of both Alabama and Auburn fans, using the words “unbridled pandemonium,” “euphoric celebration,” “frenzy,” and “silent and stunned.” Torrence said he is most proud of the story’s ability to make readers feel as if they were experiencing the play and its aftermath in real time.

“It was a different perspective on it, or maybe the story evokes feelings in people of triumph or of defeat or of awe at that moment,” Torrence said. “And I think that resonates with people and hopefully I did a good enough job of conveying that to make people feel that way.”

Two other stories won national awards during the decade: Jason Galloway’s feature on Tyrone Prothro’s recovery from a career-ending leg injury won second place in the Sports Feature category from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA), and Sean Landry’s coverage of the 2014 Iron Bowl, a 55-44 Alabama win, won first place from the CSPA in the Sports News category.

Alabama’s next game after the Kick Six was the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma in January. Three days before the game, Torrence’s assistant sports editor, Charlie Potter, followed coach Nick Saban and several Alabama players around a children’s hospital as they greeted patients and autographed footballs. 

Potter spotted Saban talking to a young girl who was painting her fingernails, and then Saban sat down and let her paint his fingernails. The result was a photo and a tweet that won a National Apple Award from the CMA for Best Tweet of the Year.

“I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, when are you ever gonna see this?’” Potter said.

The notifications started pouring in, including a retweet from former ESPN reporter Erin Andrews. Like Torrence, Potter didn’t even realize his tweet had been entered into the contest; in fact, he didn’t even know there were awards for tweets.

Earlier in Torrence’s career, before he covered Alabama football, he earned an honorable mention for his coverage of gymnastics’ national championship in 2012 and second place in a Society of Professional Journalists regional contest for a profile on Northport-based boxer Deontay Wilder.

The Wilder profile, which was written in the summer of 2012 – two and a half years before Wilder won his first World Boxing Council heavyweight championship – chronicled the boxer’s aspirations to play football or basketball at Alabama before academic struggles and a child with a birth defect forced him to change course.

With Wilder now one of the biggest names in the sport, Torrence said it’s fun to look back at what was a story intended to fill space during the sports-deprived Tuscaloosa summer.

“Obviously it’s easy to remember now because now he’s a champion and is fighting all the time,” Torrence said. “That’s really cool to think about covering him before that happened.”

In January 2015, when Wilder was about to claim his first title, CW sports reporter Elliott Propes wrote another story about him that won first place in the SPJ Region 3 Sports Writing category. The cover of that issue is emblazoned on the wall of the CW newsroom, with the headline “VEGAS GETS WILDER” in bold text.

A few feet to the right of that is another award-winning issue from October 2014. Photographer Pete Pajor snapped a photo of Saban, hands on hips, standing in front of players as the team prepares to take the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The photo won first place in Sports Photography from the SPJ.

Two CW photographers were finalists for SPJ Sports Photography Awards in 2018: Hannah Saad for a photo of running back Najee Harris hurdling a Tennessee defender, and Sam MacDonald for a photo of wide receiver DeVonta Smith celebrating his game-winning touchdown catch in the 2017 national championship against Georgia.

For all the touchdown passes, slam dunks, floor routines and home runs by the Crimson Tide in the 2010s, the Crimson White has had award-winning reporters and photographers bringing those moments to Alabama fans everywhere.

“I just remember enjoying it immensely,” Torrence said. “Getting to go to all those games, whether it was the Kick Six or the national championship against Notre Dame or the Game of the Century, there was so much. I think it was a good time to be on the sports desk at the Alabama student paper.”