Choosing non-quarterback Most Outstanding Players for each CFL season this century

Photo courtesy: CFL

USC’s Caleb Williams was recently awarded the Heisman Trophy as part of a group of finalists comprised entirely of quarterbacks. The award is supposed to go to the top player in college football but some critics have suggested that it’s become too focused on the quarterback position and, looking at the numbers, they seem to have a point.

Passers have taken home the Heisman Trophy 19 times this century, accounting for 82.6 percent of the times it’s been awarded since 2000. Meanwhile, quarterbacks won the award only seven times from 1975 to 1999, a rate of just 28 percent.

The same criticism has been levied regarding the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player award, albeit to a lesser extent. Quarterbacks have won the award 41 times since it was incepted in 1953, a rate of 59.4 percent. The award has become more quarterback-centric over time, however, with passers winning it at a rate of 72.7 percent since 2000.

This led me to wonder who would have won M.O.P. each year of this century if quarterbacks weren’t eligible to win the award. The following list is just that — a list of non-quarterback M.O.P.s for each CFL season dating back to 2000.

Six non-quarterbacks have won M.O.P. over this span of time, including Brandon Banks (2019), Solomon Elimimian (2014), Jon Cornish (2013), Chad Owens (2012), Geroy Simon (2006), and Milt Stegall (2002). For the purposes of this article, these years have been omitted from the list below.

Honourable mentions are listed alphabetically by last name.

2022 — REC Dalton Schoen, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Actual winner: QB Zach Collaros, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The league’s Most Outstanding Rookie caught 70 passes for 1,441 yards and 16 touchdowns this past season to lead the league in receiving yards, yards per reception, receiving touchdowns, and tie for the league lead in yards from scrimmage. His touchdown total was also the most by a CFL receiver since Jamel Richardson in 2008.

Honourable mentions: RB Ka’Deem Carey, Calgary Stampeders; REC Eugene Lewis, Montreal Alouettes; REC Dominique Rhymes, B.C. Lions

2021 — REC Lucky Whitehead, B.C. Lions

Actual winner: QB Zach Collaros, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Whitehead was the most explosive player in the league, recording 60 receptions for 932 yards and four touchdowns. He finished fourth in the league in combined yards and scored two touchdowns as a return specialist, becoming a threat to score each time he touched the ball.

Honourable mentions: REC Kenny Lawler, Winnipeg Blue Bombers; REC Eugene Lewis, Montreal Alouettes; RB William Stanback, Montreal Alouettes

Photo: Nik Kowalski/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

2018 — RB Andrew Harris, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Actual winner: QB Bo Levi Mitchell, Calgary Stampeders

The Winnipeg native was dominant this year, rushing for a career-high 1,390 yards and eight touchdowns and making 58 receptions for 451 yards and three touchdowns. He led the league in rushing yards and yards from scrimmage.

Honourable mentions: REC Brandon Banks, Hamilton Tiger-Cats; DL Micah Johnson, Calgary Stampeders; REC Duke Williams, Edmonton Elks

2017 — RB Andrew Harris, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Actual winner: QB Michael Reilly, Edmonton Football Team

Harris had the best season of his career as a receiver with 105 catches for 857 yards, finishing the year as the league’s 18th-ranked receiver despite starting at running back. He still led the league in rushing despite the attention he received through the air and led the league in yards from scrimmage.

Honourable mentions: REC Greg Ellingson, Ottawa Redblacks; REC S.J. Green, Toronto Argonauts; REC Brandon Zylstra, Edmonton Elks

2016 — REC Adarius Bowman, Edmonton Elks

Actual winner: QB Bo Levi Mitchell, Calgary Stampeders

Few receivers have dominated the league like Bowman did in 2016 when he made a league-leading 120 receptions for 1,761 yards and nine touchdowns. His yardage was the CFL’s second-best single-season total of the decade and almost 200 more than the league’s second-ranked target, which was teammate Derel Walker.

Honourable mentions: REC Emmanuel Arceneaux, B.C. Lions; LB Solomon Elimimian, B.C. Lions; REC Derel Walker, Edmonton Elks

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

2015 — REC Eric Rogers, Calgary Stampeders

Actual winner: QB Henry Burris, Ottawa Redblacks

Rogers made 88 catches to lead the league with 1,448 receiving yards and tie for the league lead with 10 touchdowns. The performance launched Rogers to the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers, though his opportunity was spoiled by a torn ACL he suffered in his first training camp.

Honourable mentions: LB Adam Bighill, B.C. Lions; DL John Bowman, Montreal Alouettes; RB Jerome Messam, Saskatchewan Roughriders

2011 — RB Brandon Whitaker, Montreal Alouettes

Actual winner: QB Travis Lulay, B.C. Lions

The dual-threat ball carrier was one of just two CFL players to record over 2,000 yards from scrimmage in a single season during the 2010s. He led the league with 1,381 rushing yards, caught 72 passes for 638 yards, and scored 10 touchdowns on the year.

Honourable mentions: LB Jerrell Freeman, Saskatchewan Roughriders; REC Jamel Richardson, Montreal Alouettes; REC Geroy Simon, B.C. Lions

2010 — LB Jamall Johnson, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Actual winner: QB Henry Burris, Calgary Stampeders

Markeith Knowlton won Most Outstanding Defensive Player this season, though a strong argument could be made for his teammate. In a year without any major offensive standouts, Johnson was flat-out dominant with 100 defensive tackles, 10 special teams tackles, five sacks, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and one interception.

Honourable mentions: RB Cory Boyd, Toronto Argonauts; REC Terrence Edwards, Winnipeg Blue Bombers; REC Andy Fantuz, Saskatchewan Roughriders

2009 — RB Joffrey Reynolds, Calgary Stampeders

Actual winner: QB Anthony Calvillo, Montreal Alouettes

It’s rare for running back to have the best season of their career as they reach age 30 but that’s exactly what Reynolds did in 2009. He led the league in rushing yards and yards from scrimmage, rushing for 1,504 yards and 11 touchdowns and catching 36 passes for 431 yards and two touchdowns.

Honourable mentions: DB Korey Banks, B.C. Lions; REC Fred Stamps, Edmonton Elks; RB Arkee Whitlock, Edmonton Elks

Photo: AP/CP/John Ulan

2008 — DL Cameron Wake, B.C. Lions

Actual winner: QB Anthony Calvillo, Montreal Alouettes

The future NFL star made 23 sacks in 2008, which remains easily the best single-season total of the century. He recorded more than twice as many sacks as the next-ranked player — Aaron Hunt made 11 — along with 63 tackles, five forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and one touchdown.

Honourable mentions: RB Wes Cates, Saskatchewan Roughriders; REC Jamel Richardson, Montreal Alouettes; RB Joffrey Reynolds, Calgary Stampeders

2007 — RB Joe Smith, B.C. Lions

Actual winner: QB Kerry Joseph, Saskatchewan Roughriders

The second-year starter scored 19 touchdowns this season, which remains unsurpassed by any CFL player in the 15 years since. Smith also led the league with 1,510 rushing yards and caught 23 passes for 180 yards and one touchdown.

Honourable mentions: REC Terrence Edwards, Winnipeg Blue Bombers; DB Ryan Phillips, B.C. Lions; RB Charles Roberts, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

2005 — RB Charles Roberts, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Actual winner: QB Damon Allen, Toronto Argonauts

Roberts led the league with 2,098 yards from scrimmage, rushing for 1,624 yards and 12 touchdowns and catching 49 passes for 474 yards. In hindsight, it seems wrong that Roberts never won an M.O.P. award during his Hall of Fame career.

Honourable mentions: RB Joffrey Reynolds, Calgary Stampeders; REC Milt Stegall, Winnipeg Blue Bombers; REC Jason Tucker, Edmonton Elks

2004 — REC Geroy Simon, B.C. Lions

Actual winner: QB Casey Printers, B.C. Lions

The future M.O.P. won the triple crown in 2004, leading the league in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. He made 103 catches for 1,750 yards and 14 touchdowns in what was his second of nine consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.

Honourable mentions: RB Troy Davis, Hamilton Tiger-Cats; RB Charles Roberts, Winnipeg Blue Bombers; REC Jason Tucker, Edmonton Elks

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

2003 — REC Jermaine Copeland, Montreal Alouettes

Actual winner: QB Anthony Calvillo, Montreal Alouettes

The three-time CFL all-star took full advantage of having one of the best quarterbacks in league history, making 99 catches for a league-leading 1,757 yards and 14 touchdowns. This was the first of Copeland’s five career 1,000-yard seasons.

Honourable mentions: REC Ben Cahoon, Montreal Alouettes; RB Charles Roberts, Winnipeg Blue Bombers; REC Geroy Simon, B.C. Lions

2001 — RB Mike Pringle, Montreal Alouettes

Actual winner: QB Khari Jones, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The future Hall of Fame inductee finished just shy of the league lead in rushing yards and yards from scrimmage but scored a league-leading 17 touchdowns. His yardage totals were still excellent, finishing with 1,323 yards along the ground and 285 yards through the air.

Honourable mentions: REC Ed Hervey, Edmonton Elks; RB Michael Jenkins, Toronto Argonauts; DL Joe Montford, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

2000 — RB Mike Pringle, Montreal Alouettes

Actual winner: QB Dave Dickenson, Calgary Stampeders

Pringle had one of the most productive seasons in CFL history, recording 326 carries for 1,778 yards and 19 touchdowns to lead the league in all three categories. He also caught 34 passes for 333 yards to finish the year with over 2,100 yards from scrimmage.

Honourable mentions: REC Curtis Marsh, Saskatchewan Roughriders; DL Joe Montford, Hamilton Tiger-Cats; REC Milt Stegall, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

John Hodge is a CFL insider and draft analyst who has been covering the league since 2014.