Chase Brown, Kurtis Rourke headline finalists for Jon Cornish Trophy

Photo courtesy: AP/Nam Y. Huh

Football Canada has unveiled the five finalists for this year’s Jon Cornish Trophy, awarded annually to the top Canadian football player in the NCAA. All five finalists were born in the province on Ontario.

The winner of this award will be unveiled on Wednesday, Dec. 14. The Jon Cornish Trophy is awarded by a panel of voters across Canada consisting of Canadian journalists, player personnel evaluators from the Canadian Football League, former NCAA players connected to Canada and the panellists from TSN’s Krown Gridiron Nation.

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

RB Chase Brown, Junior
Illinois Fighting Illini
London, Ont.

The five-foot-eleven, 205-pound ball carrier recorded 328 carries for 1,643 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, finishing as the second-leading rusher in the NCAA and first in the Power Five. This was Brown’s second consecutive 1,000-yard season. He was also a finalist for last year’s Cornish Trophy.

Brown was named a finalist for the Doak Walker Award this year, recognizing him as one of the top three running backs in college football. He was also a semifinalist for the Maxwell Award, an honour given to the top 20 offensive players in college football, as well as a semifinalist for Walter Camp Player of the Year. In September, he was named the No. 1-ranked prospect for the 2023 CFL Draft.

Photo courtesy: Ohio University

QB Kurtis Rourke, Junior
Ohio Bobcats
Oakville, Ont.

The younger brother of B.C. Lions’ quarterback Nathan Rourke completed 69.1 percent of his passes for 3,256 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, and four interceptions this past season and ran the ball 74 times for 245 yards and four touchdowns. He was named the Mid-American Conference Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year.

The six-foot-four, 211-pound passer was fifth in the nation in passing yards until he suffered a season-ending knee injury in Ohio’s second-last game. He helped guide the Bobcats to their first appearance in the MAC championship game since 2016 and broke Ohio’s single-game record for passing yards (537), which had stood since 1983.

Photo courtesy: Petre Thomas/Ole Miss Athletics

DL Tavius Robinson, Senior
Ole Miss Rebels
Guelph, Ont.

The six-foot-six, 265-pound defensive end recorded 39 total tackles, six tackles for loss, five sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and one knockdown over 12 games this past season. He has finished his career in the Southeastern Conference with 9.5 sacks.

Robinson transferred to Ole Miss from the University of Guelph in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Deane Leonard, a defensive back from the University of Calgary, transferred to Ole Miss at the same time and was a seventh-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft to the Los Angeles Chargers. In September, Robinson was named the No. 9-ranked prospect for the 2023 CFL Draft.

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman

REC Jared Wayne, Senior
Pittsburgh Panthers
Peterborough, Ont.

The six-foot-three, 210-pound target made 55 receptions for 1,012 yards and five touchdowns this past season, finishing eighth in the Atlantic Coast Conference in receptions, fourth in yardage, and third in yards per reception.

Wayne was named second-team All-ACC this past year and the ACC offensive player of the week on Dec. 3 after making 11 receptions for 205 yards and three touchdowns against Miami. In September, he was named the No. 4-ranked prospect for the 2023 CFL Draft.

Photo: AP/Charles Rex Arbogast

DB Sydney Brown, Senior
Illinois Fighting Illini
London, Ont

The safety made 59 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, six interceptions, seven knockdowns, one sack, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery for the Fighting Illini this past year. He was named first-team All-Big Ten by the conference’s coaches and second-team All-Big Ten by the media. He is the twin brother of fellow finalist Chase Brown.

Brown has accepted an invitation to the Reese’s Senior Bowl and at times this year was named the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week, Bednarik Award National Player of the Week, Senior Bowl Player of the Week, and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. In September, he was named the No. 3-ranked prospect for the 2023 CFL Draft.

The following individuals have won the Jon Cornish Trophy since its inception in 2017.

2021 — REC John Metchie III — Brampton, Ont./Alabama
2020 — REC John Metchie III — Brampton, Ont./Alabama
2019 — RB Chuba Hubbard — Sherwood Park, Alta./Oklahoma State
2018 — QB Nathan Rourke — Victoria, B.C./Ohio
2017 — QB Nathan Rourke — Victoria, B.C./Ohio