Chris Hine had stopped to visit a friend and was just about to get back on the highway, driving from Chicago to Minneapolis. His phone rang that January day and it was National Sports Media Association.
Hine was told that he had been named the NSMA's Illinois Sportswriter of the Year.
"It was very surreal," said Hine, who spent eight years writing for the Chicago Tribune, mostly as the Chicago Blackhawks beat writer.
"I definitely was filled with a lot of emotions on the drive. Eight years at the Chicago Tribune, working hard to establish yourself, carve out a name for yourself. Just to be nominated was great, let alone win the award."
The first call Hine made was to his parents. "They have supported me every step along the way," he said.
"I was very honored to be voted [the winner], even being considered," said Hine, who is openly gay.
The 59th NSMA Awards Weekend is June 23-25, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Mark Giangreco ( WLS-TV ) and Pat Hughes ( Chicago Cubs Radio Network/670 The Score ) were named the co-Illinois Sportscasters of the Year by NSMA.
Seattle Times reporter Stefanie Loh, who is a lesbian, received the NSMA's Washington Sportswriter of the Year.
"I just tried to do as good of a job on the Blackhawks beat as I could," Hine said. "I also wrote a couple of gay issue [stories] in sports, [such as] Ryan Getzlaf's anti-gay slur in the ( NHL ) playoff.
"Nothing really stood out, I just tried to have the best year I could … I guess people took notice.
"Winning the award was a great honor, a great cap to my eight-year career at the Tribune that I really enjoyed and loved."
Hine is now the new sports analytics writer for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
"I'm going to miss Chicago a lot; I loved working at the Chicago Tribune; I loved the people I worked with; I loved covering the Chicago Blackhawks," he said. "I'll miss a lot of people in Chicago.
"I hope to still spend a lot of time in Chicago, when I can."