INDIANAPOLIS — Chris Ballard received a late birthday gift of sorts on Thursday.
The Indianapolis Colts general manager, who turned 51 just yesterday, was announced as the Pro Football Writers of America's 2020 Jack Horrigan Award winner, which is given annually to the "league or club official for his or her qualities and professional style in helping the pro football writers do their job."
This is the first time in the 47-year history of the Jack Horrigan Award that it has been presented to a member of the Colts organization.
Mike Chappell, who has covered the Colts since they moved to Indianapolis in 1984 for the Indy Star and now for FOX59/CBS4, said Ballard has always showed a clear understanding of — and respect for — the media since being hired by the team in 2017.
"Too often in pro sports, there's a built-in us-versus-them mentality. I understand that. But while Chris Ballard's overriding responsibility remains building the Colts into a championship franchise, he has understood the media has a job to do," Chappell, a Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee member, told Colts.com.
"As much as his job allows, he's taken time to offer transparency and explanations for what he's done," Chappell continued. "Others can learn from that approach."
Named for former Buffalo-area sportswriter Jack Horrigan, who also served as the Buffalo Bills' Vice President of Public Relations from 1966-73, the Jack Horrigan Award has been presented annually by the PFWA since 1973.
Former coaches or executives with Colts ties to have been presented the Jack Horrigan Award in the past include George Young (New York Giants; 1990), Don Shula (Miami Dolphins; 1994), Tony Dungy (Tampa Bay Buccaneers; 1998) and Bruce Arians (Arizona Cardinals; 2015).
Ballard, who was also nominated for the Jack Horrigan Award in 2018 and 2019, earned the PFWA's Executive of the Year Award following the 2018 season, when the Colts became the third team in league history to start 1-5 and reach the postseason; Indy had a 9-1 record over its final 10 regular season games, and went on the road to defeat the Houston Texans in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
That year, guard Quenton Nelson and linebacker Darius Leonard became the first rookie teammates to be named First-Team All-Pro since Pro Football Hall of Famers Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers accomplished that feat with the Chicago Bears in 1965.