Stampeders linebacker Singleton earns league high three top player nominations

It’s been a record-breaking season for Alex Singleton.

The six-foot-two, 235-pound linebacker has helped anchor a Calgary Stampeders defence that’s tops in the CFL in fewest offensive points allowed (17.1 per game), touchdowns (28), yards (322.2 per game), most sacks (49) and quarterback pressures (123). Singleton has done his part with 121 defensive tackles and 123 total tackles, the former a CFL record for a Canadian and both being club marks.

And Singleton also became the first CFL player to record at least 10 tackles in three consecutive games.

On Wednesday, Singleton was rewarded with a league-high three nominations for the CFL’s individual awards. Singleton was named Calgary’s nominee as top player, defensive player and Canadian in voting by the Football Reporters of Canada and eight league head coaches.

Singleton was a unanimous selection as defensive player and Canadian.

Singleton, 23, was born in California but qualifies as a national player in the CFL because he’s a Canadian citizen. Calgary selected Singleton sixth overall in the 2016 draft and the former Montana State star had 65 defensive tackles, nine special-team tackles and three forced fumbles in 18 games – 10 starts – as a rookie.

Singleton has also registered four sacks, an interception and forced fumble this year. Calgary (13-3-1) concludes its regular season Friday hosting the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (11-6) having already clinched first in the West Division and home field for the conference final Nov. 19.

Predictably, team accomplishments are more important to Singleton than individual accolades.

“Awards are nice, fun to think about,” he told the Stampeders’ website. “Just being mentioned is an honour.

“But only if they come along with the ultimate prize. That ring’s the thing. Without that Grey Cup, nothing else would be nearly as sweet.”

The other nominees for top player include quarterbacks Mike Reilly of Edmonton, Ricky Ray of Toronto (unanimously) and Matt Nichols of Winnipeg, linebackers Solomon Elimimian of B.C., Kyries Hebert of Montreal and Larry Dean of Hamilton, Saskatchewan receiver/cornerback Duron Carter and Ottawa receiver Greg Ellingson.

In 2014, Elimimian became the first pure defensive player to capture the CFL’s outstanding player award.

Elimimian, Dean and Hebert (all defensive player nominees also) were among eight players to receive two nominations. The others included: B.C. kicker/punter Ty Long (special teams, rookie) and offensive linemen Matt O’Donnell of Edmonton, Ryan Bomben of Hamilton, Sean McEwen of Toronto and Kristian Matte of Montreal (Canadian, lineman).

Calgary kick-returner Roy Finch (special teams), linebacker Henoc Muamba (Canadian) and offensive lineman Brendon LaBatte (lineman) of Saskatchewan, Winnipeg running back Andrew Harris (Canadian) and Hamilton kicker Sergio Castillo (special teams) were all unanimous selections.

The division finalists will be announced next Thursday. The CFL will honour its top performers Nov. 23 in Ottawa.

Reilly, 32, tops the CFL in passing (5,536 yards) and is tied for the lead in TDs (career-best 30). The six-foot-three, 230-pound Reilly has registered 12 300-yard passing games and has also run for 361 yards and nine touchdowns, tying him with Calgary’s Jerome Messam for the league lead.

“Our success and failures are as a team,” Reilly told reporters in Edmonton. “I’m certainly honoured to represent our team but it’s a combined group effort.

“It’s all of us being nominated in my opinion.”

Ray, 38, is second in passing with 5,205 yards and also has 12 300-yard contests, including a CFL-best 506-yard performance. After being plagued by injuries, Ray has missed just one game this year despite being sacked more often – 38 times – than any other CFL quarterback.

Ray is the only player in CFL history to record 100-plus TD passes with two teams – 210 with Edmonton, 111 with Toronto. The 15-year-veteran is also just the third to register four or more 5,000-yard passing seasons and fourth to crack the 60,000-yard plateau.

If Ray has 34 completions Saturday night against the B.C. Lions, he’ll break Henry Burris’s single-season record of 481.

Nichols is Winnipeg’s nominee for the second straight year after passing for a career-high 4,472 yards with 28 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Nichols started 17 straight games this season but will miss the Bombers’ regular-season finale in Calgary due to a leg injury, however, is expected back for the playoffs.

Elimimian, 31, has been a bright spot for B.C. (7-10) with a league-best 133 tackles, 10 short of his single-season record set in 2014. Elimimian has also captured the top defensive player award twice (2014, ’16), the last after suffering a serious Achilles injury in 2015.

Hebert, 37, turned back the hands of time this season with 108 tackles to stand third overall. Hebert is the first player in CFL history over the age of 35 to surpass 100 tackles, his previous best being 78 recorded last year.

The six-foot, 226-pound Dean is tied for the league lead in forced fumbles (three) and stands fifth in tackles (93). Voted a team captain in just his second CFL season, Dean has also registered one special-teams tackle, three sacks, eight pressures, a fumble recovery and tackle for loss.

Dean was appreciative of the accolades.

“Definitely,” he said. “Just to go out and put your best foot forward it’s just a blessing.

“It shows that hard work and dedication pay off.”

Carter has become a dual threat with Saskatchewan. He’s registered 73 catches for a team-best 1,043 yards and eight TDs with three 100-yard games but also made a start at cornerback, having recorded four defensive tackles and a 43-yard interception return touchdown.

The six-foot-three, 197-pound Ellingson achieved career highs in catches (96), yards (1,459) and touchdowns (12). The five-year veteran, in his third season with Ottawa, has recorded three straight 1,000-yard campaigns.

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