December 6, 2022

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Like All Trades

USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein wins PFWA’s Terez A. Paylor Award

When I first learned my inimitable colleague Jori Epstein had been selected as the 2022 winner of the Professional Football Writers of America’s Terez A. Paylor Emerging Writer Award, my visceral reaction was unrestrained glee that she and her work were being so prominently recognized by her peers – and in conjunction with someone as widely respected as Terez was.

Yet it only took one reflective moment to think my PFWA associates – through no fault of their own – were having a Captain Obvious, sky is blue moment. 

After all, Jori’s no “emerging writer.”

Much as I might suspect it, I can’t prove she was a fully formed baller of a beat reporter from the day she took her first breath. But she’s been every bit a Pro Bowler since the day she joined USA TODAY Sports in 2018, primarily to cover what’s probably the NFL’s most competitive beat: the Dallas Cowboys. 

No matter.

Jori’s transition from the Dallas Morning News’ night desk was as seamless and impactful as a certain fourth-round pick from Mississippi State when he replaced Tony Romo as the Cowboys’ QB1 – so much so that Dak Prescott himself provided Jori a heartfelt video, congratulating her for being the second recipient of the Paylor Award. (That alone is telling insight into both Jori and Prescott.)

Since being hired at USA TODAY Sports in 2018, Jori Epstein has covered Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys, as well as the NFL at large.

But he knows. Jori has written about one of the league’s biggest stars comprehensively and fairly – whether detailing Prescott’s successes between the lines, his gruesome leg injury in 2020 and subsequent comeback, the tragedies he’s dealt with off the field, his long-awaited contract extension, the deal to be Jordan Brand’s NFL quarterbacking ambassador and even the failure and postgame controversy that came with last season’s playoff loss to the 49ers – often with exclusive access.