Western Mustangs’ running back Keon Edwards named 2022 OUA Most Valuable Player

Photo courtesy: OUA

Western Mustangs’ running back Keon Edwards has been named the Larry Haylor Award winner as Ontario University Athletics’s (OUA) most valuable player during the 2022 season.

After being selected an OUA all-star and a second-team All-Canadian in 2021, Edwards rushed for 1,032 yards on 130 carries (7.9 yards per carry) in a sensational follow-up campaign. The five-foot-11, 230-pound back exceeded the 100-yard mark in each of his eight games, adding nine touchdowns on the ground while leading the country in rushing.

The focal point of the top-ranked team in the country, Edwards achieved that feat while splitting carries with backup Edouard Wanadi — who finished fifth in the nation with 843 yards and nine touchdowns on 94 carries. The backfield tandem has the Mustangs as the odds-on favourites to repeat as Yates Cup and Vanier Cup champions.

Edwards becomes the 15th league MVP produced by the Western program and the first since the award was renamed in honour of Haylor, a Hall of Fame Mustangs coach.

Joining his teammate in the national spotlight, Western safety Daniel Valente Jr was named the President’s Trophy winner as the conference’s outstanding stand-up defensive player.

Valente led the country with five interceptions on the season, amassing 116 return yards. He added 16 tackles and a sack as the leader of the Mustangs’ defence.

The fifth-year safety was drafted 31st overall in the fourth round of the 2022 CFL Draft by the Ottawa Redblacks and spent time on the team’s practice squad before returning to school.

Western’s Yates Cup opponent, the Queen’s Gaels, were also represented in the major awards by defensive end Silas Hubert, who won the J.P. Metras Award as the OUA’s top lineman.

The second-year pass rusher stepped into the shoes of Ticats’ draft pick Anthony Federico seamlessly, notching six sacks in a breakout campaign. He added 22 tackles, including eight for loss.

Guelph Gryphons’ running back Isaiah Smith received the Norm Marshall Award as the conference’s top rookie, while McMaster Marauders’ defensive tackle Alex Cheng received the nomination for the prestigious Russ Jackson Award for community service. Western’s Greg Marshall was selected as Coach of the Year, while Windsor defensive line coach Mike Circelli was named as the OUA’s top volunteer coach and Waterloo defensive coordinator Darrell Adams received the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Award.

In 2021, Waterloo Warriors’ quarterback Tre Ford was named the OUA’s most valuable player and went on to claim the Hec Crighton Trophy as Canada’s top university football player. Ford was drafted eighth overall in the first round of the 2022 CFL Draft by the Edmonton Elks, making three starts for the team as a rookie and becoming the first U Sports quarterback to win a CFL game since 1985.

All major OUA award winners will be nominated for the corresponding national award.