William Nack, 73, grew up in Chicago before moving to nearby Skokie, Ill., at age 10. He became enamored with the Chicago Cubs and horse racing at an early age. As a teenager, he also worked as a groom and hot walker at Arlington Park and considered rejecting his acceptance to the University of Illinois to head east to work full-time with horses.
He eventually changed his mind, enrolling at Illinois and becoming sports editor of The Daily Illini in 1963, working under editor-in-chief and close friend Roger Ebert. The next year, he also became editor-in-chief before graduating and serving with the U.S. Army in Vietnam. When Nack completed his service obligation in 1968, he began his newspaper career at Newsday on Long Island, N.Y., covering local utilities and the environment. At a newspaper Christmas party he recited every Kentucky Derby winner in chronological order from 1875 to 1970, impressing his bosses sufficiently that they offered him the job of horse racing writer.
In 11 years at Newsday, he covered horse racing, as well as becoming one of the newspaper’s sports columnists.
In 1979, he joined Sports Illustrated and over the next 22 years became one of SI’s most accomplished and versatile writers. He tracked former chess champion Bobby Fischer across the country and covered the Indianapolis trial that saw Mike Tyson convicted of rape in 1992. He has written numerous books and many of his best works have been compiled in anthologies. One of his best-selling books, “Secretariat: The Making of a Champion, ” was turned into a film in which Nack was a consultant.
Nack has won the Eclipse Media Award for outstanding turf writing seven times. He was the 2004 recipient of the Boxing Writers’ Association of America’s A.J. Liebling Award.
Nack lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife Carolyne Starek. He contributes frequently to ESPN and currently is working on a book about his late friend, Roger Ebert, as well as one on Antietam.
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