Ron Rivera honored with George Halas Award for overcoming adversity

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Commanders head coach Ron Rivera was selected as the 2022 George Halas Award winner by the Professional Football Writers of America for his success in the face of adversity.

In 2020, Rivera was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma and underwent 35 proton radiation treatments and three cycles of chemotherapy while continuing to coach. He lost 30 pounds during treatment, often needing daily rest periods between meetings and practices, and intravenous fluids during halftimes of games. But he never missed a game, and although he was physically weakened, Rivera helped lead Washington to its first playoff berth in five years.

“Yeah, he’s tougher than nails,” Kansas City Chiefs Coach Andy Reid said in October. “You knew that as a player and I was able to see it through his coaching, working with him firsthand [in Philadelphia]. Then the world got to see it, and what a great example he is for so many. For having gone through that, persevering through it, the toughness that it takes, staying positive mentally to work through it and then doing his job the way he did.”

The morning after the Commanders’ October 2020 win over the Dallas Cowboys, Rivera celebrated his final treatment by ringing the bell at Inova Schar Cancer Institute in Northern Virginia. Three months later, he learned he was “officially cancer free.”

Rivera still has regular checkups with doctors and, last season, said he still deals with fatigue.

“I mean, there’s still some things that do slow me down,” he said in October. “I’m still trying to go through the recovery.”

Rivera is the fourth member of Washington’s organization to receive the award and the second in as many years; Rivera was on the ballot in 2020, but the honor went to Alex Smith after the former quarterback returned from a life-threatening leg injury and infection to help the Commanders win the NFC East title.

Former Washington quarterback Billy Kilmer won the award in 1976, and cornerback Pat Fischer won in 1978.

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