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Times' Gary Shelton selected nation's top sports columnist

For the second time in his career, the St. Petersburg Times' Gary Shelton has been named the best newspaper sports columnist in the nation by a panel of Associated Press Sports Editors judges.

Shelton, 58, was also named the No. 1 columnist among major newspapers (circulations above 250,000) in 1995.

This is the sixth time he has been ranked in the top 10 by the APSE judges and the fourth time he has been recognized in the top five.

"Gary Shelton is a franchise player on the best sports news team in Florida and beyond," said Times executive editor Neil Brown. "This terrific honor is a great recognition of Gary's enormous talent as well as the vitality of the sports scene in Tampa Bay."

Shelton's honor was based on five entries from 2009:

• a column after the abrupt firing of Bucs coach Jon Gruden.

• an open letter to Delaney Cooper, the then-3-year-old daughter of former Bucs linebacker Marquis Cooper, who was one of three men who died when their fishing boat capsized in the Gulf of Mexico.

• a column on former Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who had left the NFL to work for his son at the University of Tennessee.

• a column wondering what the English did to us to deserve having to watch the Bucs play the Patriots in London last season.

• a column on Bobby Bowden's final game as coach at Florida State.

Shelton joined the Times in 1990 as a sports writer covering the NFL. He became a columnist two years later. A graduate of Auburn, he had been a sports writer at the Columbus (Ga.) Enquirer and the Miami Herald before joining the Times.

Jack Sheppard, Times sports editor

Times' Gary Shelton selected nation's top sports columnist 04/10/10 [Last modified: Sunday, April 11, 2010 5:27pm]
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