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April 20, 2011

Eagle-Tribune photographer honored by Pro Football Hall of Fame

Mary Schwalm grew up really wanting to play football. But being a female, the option was never presented to her so instead she played soccer, basketball, hockey and swam while in high school and college.

But guess who's going to be honored by the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, this August?

Schwalm.

The 33-year-old Eagle-Tribune photographer won the 43rd Annual Pro Football Hall Fame Photo Contest for her shot during the Patriots-Packers game on Dec. 19, a Monday night contest, at Gillette Stadium.

The NFL's 2010 Photograph of the Year, titled "Thrill and Agony," captured Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez high-stepping into the end zone for a late, go-ahead touchdown while Packers cornerback Sam Shields is on hands and knees, in defeat, in the background.

"I saw the '330' area code on my phone and didn't recognize it, which is rare because of my work with (Associated Press) I've gotten to know area codes very well," said Schwalm, who resides in North Andover.

"Nobody had ever called me before from Canton (Ohio)," said Schwalm. "When they told me, I first wondered, 'Is this real? Are you kidding me?'"

The news got even better. She was told by the Pro Football Hall of Fame that she was the first woman to cop the honor.

"I couldn't believe that, with all of the great female photographers there are around the country shooting pro football," said Schwalm. "I am shocked that I'm the first woman. I remember thinking, 'There are so many other female photographers more accomplished than I am.' That's very humbling ... but I'll take it."

Schwalm got her first job in photography with AP in 2001, where she worked as a sports photo editor until 2006.

She joined The Eagle-Tribune about in May 2010 as a part-timer and then joined the staff as a full-timer in August.

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