Most outstanding: CFL unveils year-end award winners

Photo: Arthur Ward/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

The CFL awards took place on Thursday night at the Conexus Arts Centre in Regina ahead of the 109th Grey Cup between the Toronto Argonauts and Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Below is a list of those who were honoured.

Photo: Arthur Ward/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Most Outstanding Rookie — REC Dalton Schoen, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ receiver Dalton Schoen has been named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie after becoming the first first-year player to lead the league in receiving in over two decades.

Schoen made 70 receptions for 1,441 yards and 16 touchdowns in his first season, averaging 20.6 yards per catch. No player has led the league in both receiving yards and average yards per catch since Canadian Football Hall of Fame inductee Milt Stegall achieved the feat in 2002. He is the first member of the Blue Bombers to win this award since Chris Matthews did so in 2012.

The former Kansas State walk-on made 12 receptions of over 30 yards and 41 second-down conversions this season. He is the first rookie to lead the league in receiving yards since Curtis Marsh of the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2000.

Schoen received 48 first-place ballots, beating out Montreal Alouettes’ receiver Tyson Philpot. Schoen is expected to receive significant NFL interest this offseason.

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Jake Gaudaur Veterans’ Affairs — OL Dan Clark, Saskatchewan Roughriders

Saskatchewan Roughriders’ centre Dan Clark has been awarded the prestigious Jake Gaudaur Veterans’ Award in his hometown of Regina.

The award honours a Canadian player who embodies the attributes of Canada’s veterans, including strength, perseverance, courage, comradeship, and contribution to local communities. It is named after long-time CFL commissioner Jake Gaudaur, a Second World War veteran.

“Dan represents the wealth of character and strength found among the tremendous players in our league,” said the CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie. “He stands tall in the Riders’ locker room as a veteran and as a leader, and every bit as important is what he stands for in the community. He is an incredible role model to his teammates, the entire league and all Canadians.”

In his tenth CFL season, Clark battled back from a broken fibula and shifted ankle bone suffered in Week 2 to play four more games for the Riders in 2022. It was his second major injury in four years after he suffered a serious car accident in 2019.

Clark remained heavily involved in Saskatchewan’s day-to-day operations while rehabbing his injury. He is also extremely active in the community, leading several team initiatives that champion mental wellness, healthy relationships and anti-bullying, including work with the Red Cross, Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital, and the Game Changers Playbook.

He was selected for the award by a panel made up of representatives from Veterans Affairs Canada, TSN broadcaster Glen Suitor, CFLPA executive director Brian Ramsay, and commissioner Randy Ambrosie.

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Most Outstanding Defensive Player — DL Lorenzo Mauldin IV, Ottawa Redblacks

Ottawa Redblacks’ defensive lineman Lorenzo Mauldin IV has been named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player following a breakout season in 2022.

The 30-year-old terrorized opposing quarterbacks all year long, making 43 tackles, a league-leading 17 sacks, and two forced fumbles over 18 starts at defensive end. This was Mauldin’s first year as a full-time CFL starter, signing with the Redblacks following a two-year stint as a rotational player with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

“So proud of what you did on the field for the club,” Ottawa general manager Shawn Burke tweeted to Mauldin on Thursday. “Just as proud of what you brought to our team in the locker room and our Ottawa community off the field.”

A pending free agent, Mauldin told the media on Wednesday night that he intends to pursue free agency this winter. He is the first member of the Redblacks ever to be named the league’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player.

The former third-round NFL draft pick garnered 32 first-place votes at the league level to beat out the West Division’s nominee, Calgary Stampeders’ defensive end Shawn Lemon, for the award.

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Most Outstanding Special Teams Player — KR Mario Alford, Saskatchewan Roughriders

Saskatchewan Roughriders’ return specialist Mario Alford has been named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Special Teams Player after establishing himself as a dominant return man in Riderville.

The 30-year-old was traded to Saskatchewan in July after losing his job with the Montreal Alouettes to Chandler Worthy, his opponent for this award. He played 13 games for the Riders, returning 44 punts for 530 yards and a touchdown, 38 kickoffs for 990 yards and two touchdowns, and three missed field goals for 129 yards and one touchdown.

Alford signed a contract extension with Saskatchewan on Wednesday that will keep him with the team through 2023. The West Virginia product received 38 first-place ballots for this award.

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Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman — OL Stanley Bryant, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ offensive lineman Stanley Bryant has been named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman for a record fourth time in his career.

The 36-year-old started 17 games at left tackle this season, missing one game due to rest. He anchored an offensive line that allowed 29 sacks on the season, which was the second-fewest league-wide. The Blue Bombers recorded an average of 113.5 yards per game, which also ranked second in the CFL.

Bryant is the only offensive lineman in CFL history to win this award more than twice. He is a seven-time league all-star and three-time Grey Cup champion.

The East Carolina product received 34 first-place ballots to defeat Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ offensive lineman Brandon Revenberg for the award.

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Tom Pate Memorial Award — REC Emmanuel Arceneaux, Edmonton Elks

Edmonton Elks’ receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux has been awarded the Tom Pate Memorial Award, recognizing his outstanding sportsmanship and significant contributions to his team and community.

The 35-year-old returned to the CFL in 2022 after a two-year absence, taking on a leadership role with a young Elks team. He caught 39 passes for 513 yards and one touchdown in 12 games.

The award is given out by the Canadian Football League Players’ Association in honour of former Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ Tom Pate, who passed away in 1975 at age 23 after being critically injured in a game.

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Coach of the Year — Mike O’Shea, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ head coach Mike O’Shea has won the Annis Stukus trophy as the CFL’s Coach of the Year for a second consecutive year, beating out his Grey Cup opponent Ryan Dinwiddie of the Toronto Argonauts.

O’Shea led his team to a West Division title for a third consecutive year, posting a club record 15 wins. He is the first coach to lead the Blue Bombers to double-digit wins in six straight years since the legendary Bud Grant.

The native of North Bay, Ont. is the first individual to win this award in back-to-back years since Charlie Taaffe did so in 1999-2000. O’Shea received 44 first-place votes for the award.

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Most Outstanding Canadian — Nathan Rourke, B.C. Lions

B.C. Lions’ quarterback Nathan Rourke has been named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian for the 2022 season.

The 24-year-old entered the season as a first-time starter and took the league by storm through nine weeks, establishing a record-setting pace while leading his team to an 8-1 record. He finished the year having completed 255-of-324 passes for 3,349 yards, 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 10 games while adding 39 carries for 304 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.

Rourke’s season-long trajectory was derailed in Week 11 when he suffered a Lisfranc sprain to his right foot. He returned late in the year and led B.C. to a victory over the Calgary Stampeders in the West Semi-Final.

The native of Victoria, B.C. received 41 first-place votes for this award to beat out Toronto Argonauts’ receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr., the East Division’s nominee.

Rourke is the seventh member of the Lions to win this award, joining linebacker Bo Lokombo, defensive lineman Ricky Foley, receiver Jason Clermont, defensive lineman Brent Johnson, running back Sean Millington, and receiver Jim Young.

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Most Outstanding Player — QB Zach Collaros, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ quarterback Zach Collaros has been named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player for the second consecutive season. He is only the fifth player in league history to win the award in back-to-back years.

The 34-year-old threw for 4,183 yards, 37 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions through 17 games this year, missing one late-season contest due to rest. His single-season passing touchdown total ranks second all-time in team history, trailing only the 48 touchdowns thrown by Khari Jones in 2002.

Collaros was acquired by the Blue Bombers via trade in October 2019 ahead of their postseason run that culminated in a Grey Cup victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He led Winnipeg to another championship in 2021 after beating the Ticats at Tim Hortons Field, this time as four-point favourites.

The Cincinnati product suffered an ankle injury late in the West Final and was unable to take the field for the final drive of the game. He did not participate in Winnipeg’s first two practices of the week but is expected to do so on Friday. He confirmed on Thursday that he will start in the Grey Cup on Sunday despite the injury.

Collaros received 47 first-place votes for this award to claim it over Montreal Alouettes’ receiver Eugene Lewis.