I’ve learned some stunning news this year during PFT Live. In May, I got word that Dick Ebersol was leaving NBC moments before an interview of Vikings V.P. of stadium wrangling Lester Bagley. I managed to cough up at least one complete sentence (I think) during the ensuing questioning.
Today, during an interview of Vikings beat writer Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, I learned that Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com had died. I trudged through the rest of the segment, largely numb to whatever Jeremy and I were discussing, and then I clumsily broke the news to Peter King during the next segment of the show.
The Lions honored the man who covered the team for 30 years on Monday, with coach Jim Schwartz not fielding the first question at his press conference, which Kowalski traditionally asked given his tenure covering the team.
“I got the word on the practice field awhile ago about Tom’s news,” Schwartz said. “We just brought the team up and had a moment of silence and prayer.
“Obviously, our condolences go out to his friends and his family, of which we consider ourselves both here.”
“The entire Lions organization, the Ford family, and me, personally, were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Tom Kowalski this morning,” Lions president Tom Lewand said. “Tom was a true professional, the consummate beat writer, somebody who brought a lot of tremendous information to our fans — even in times of disagreement; we always had the utmost respect for his professionalism.”
Kicker Jason Hanson, who secured his 20th season with the team on Monday given the decision to cut Dave Rayner, knew Kowalski better than any other player.
“I have too many [memories],” Hanson said. “It is one of those things, just like with everybody, takes you by surprise. It kind of knocks the wind out of you. You don’t know what to say or think yet. It is just amazing. Of all the reporters, I think he was the one that got it right most of the time and really had the insight.
“Beyond that, regardless of any of that, he will be missed by all of us. And everyone in this locker room, their condolences and their prayers and their thoughts go to his family and friends. I am just at a loss of words. I don’t know what to think. We all are like ‘Is it true?’ We are devastated.”
I’d never met Tom, but we’d traded plenty of e-mails, and I think we talked on the phone at least once in the past 10 years. Most recently, he helped me track down details of the report regarding an incident involving Braylon Edwards’ entourage in Michigan, before news of the situation had made it onto the Internet.
Moving forward, whenever I think of the Lions, I’ll think of Tom Kowalski. Plenty of other people surely will do the same. And that’s probably exactly how he’d want to be remembered.