University of Illinois running back Chase Brown wins 2022 Jon Cornish Trophy

Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Barry Reeger

One of the best running backs in all of college football has some new hardware to show off as the University of Illinois’ Chase Brown is the winner of the Jon Cornish Trophy given annually to the top Canadian player in NCAA football.

Brown, who was a Doak Walker Award finalist, finished the college football regular season as the nation’s second-leading rusher and the top rusher in the Power Five with 1,643 yards for the Fighting Illini in 2022.

In 2021, the London, Ontario native burst onto the national radar with three 200-plus-yard games. This season, he was a model of consistency with 10 consecutive 100-plus-yard performances as he carried the ball 328 times to lead Illinois’ rushing attack.

“I didn’t expect to get over 320 carries. The way I worked preseason is what set me up for
the season and postseason,” Brown said in a statement.

“I prepared the same way each week with the same mentality where I was looking for ways to exploit defences, along with that (focusing) on my recovery and making sure that I was at 100 percent for game day.”

Ohio Bobcats Kurtis Rourke, the junior quarterback from Oakville, Ontario, finished as the
runner-up. Chase’s twin brother and Illinois teammate, senior defensive back Sydney Brown, finished third in the voting.

“It’s been an unbelievable opportunity to share this season with him,” Sydney Brown said. “The experiences we went through together and leaving college with a degree with my brother, it’s something I’m forever grateful for. He showed exactly what he needed to be considered one of the best DBs from Canada.”

Chase will decide after the Rellaquest Bowl against Mississippi State on January 2 if he will declare for the NFL Draft. He is still weighing his options on playing his senior year.

“The NFL has been my dream since I started playing football as a kid. I’m grateful that I’m in a position where the NFL is an option, but coming back to Illinois would not hurt me. It would be another year of preparation, another year to be ready for the NFL,” Chase Brown said.

“Chase your dreams no matter how big or unusual they sound. When I was pushing just to play in college, people looked at me sideways when I said I wanted to play in the NFL. So, make the most of your opportunities.”

Chase entered the season as the favourite to capture the Cornish after finishing runner-up to two-time winner John Metchie III last year. Both Brown and Metchie are the only winners to have been selected unanimously.

This is the second time Ontario natives dominated the voting, as all five finalists hailed from the province. University of Pittsburgh wide receiver Jared Wayne Jr. and University of Mississippi defensive lineman Tavius Robinson were also nominated for the award.