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Jordan Gross wins Tom Berry award

It obviously has been a very tough year for the Carolina Panthers and their fans. However, we’ve got a bit of good news today.

Carolina offensive tackle Jordan Gross has been selected as the winner of the second annual Tom Berry Good Guy Award. This one is very special to me and the members of the Carolina media who cover the Panthers.

We were the ones who were lucky enough to share press boxes, media rooms and flight delays with Tom Berry. He was the longtime Panthers beat writer for the High Point (N.C.) Enterprise. He passed away at the start of the 2009 season.

That’s when the Carolina Chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America got together and decided to create this award in memory of Tom. Like the name of the award suggests, it is meant to honor a good guy. Actually, two good guys. The basic premise of picking the award winner is to decide which Carolina player is most helpful to the media in doing its job.

For those who didn’t know him, Tom was a great guy. One of those strong, silent types who was a true gentleman. He was incredibly dedicated to his family and his job. Tom was a pro’s pro.

Former Carolina fullback Brad Hoover, whose career from high school to the NFL was chronicled by Tom was the winner of the inaugural award. That vote was unanimous because Hoover was perfect. He had deep ties to Tom, and Hoover was always a go-to guy in the locker room -- someone who, win or lose, is always going to be courteous and professional.

The same can be said for Gross. I had the good fortune to be a beat writer covering the Panthers when Gross was drafted in 2003. He was a pleasure to deal with on a daily basis and still is as I cover him from a bit more distance and not quite as frequently. The writers who cover the team on a daily basis all said that Gross hasn’t changed, even as the Panthers have struggled through a tough season.

Gross has handled it with class and I’m proud to see his name linked forever to Tom Berry’s name.