QB Collaros, Winnipeg Blue Bombers dominate CFL’s awards

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Published December 10, 2021 at 8:54 pm

It was a clean sweep for quarterback Zach Collaros and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Friday night at the CFL awards banquet.

Collaros, 33, captured the league’s outstanding player award. Joining him on the winner’s stage were Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill (defensive player), Stanley Bryant (lineman) and Mike O’Shea (top coach).

The four Bombers anchored a solid showing for the West Division as B.C. Lions linebackers Bo Lokombo (Canadian) and Jordan Williams (rookie) were also victorious. The lone East Division winner was kick returner DeVonte Dedmon (special-teams player) of the Ottawa Redblacks.

Collaros and the Bombers look to cap a dominant season (CFL-best 11-3 record) with a second straight Grey Cup victory against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The two teams square off Sunday at Tim Hortons Field.

Voting for the honour was conducted by 45 members of the Football Reporters of Canada and the nine CFL head coaches.

Collaros posted league highs in TD passes (20) and efficiency rating (111). He also completed 70.2 per cent of his passes for 3,185 yards, second-most in the CFL to receive 43 first-place votes.

The 10-year CFL veteran led a Winnipeg offence that was first overall in offensive points scored (322), offensive TDs (35), average gain per pass (8.4 yards) and passing efficiency (101.5).

Collaros is the first Winnipeg player to earn the honour since receiver Milt Stegall in 2002. 

CFL rushing leader William Stanback of the Montreal Alouettes was the finalist.

The five-foot-10, 219-pound Bighill received 42 first-place votes to earn top defensive player honours for the third time (2015 with B.C., 2018 with Winnipeg). He  registered 70 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a TD for the CFL’s top defence.

Winnipeg ended the season tops in the CFL in fewest offensive points allowed (12.9 per game), offensive touchdowns (15), net offence (281.3), most turnovers forced (38), and lowest opponent passing efficiency (71.3). The Bombers allowed 13.4 points per game — the ninth-fewest total in CFL history and lowest since 1970. 

Hamilton linebacker Simoni Lawrence was the finalist.

The six-foot-five, 306-pound Bryant secured 50 votes to become the first Winnipeg player to win top lineman honours three times. He anchored an offensive line that allowed a league-low 16 sacks while the Bombers were second in CFL rushing (119.7 yards per game) and tops in running TDs (14).

Winnipeg was also first overall in passing efficiency (101.5) and 30-plus yard completions (26) while finishing tied with Hamilton for the fewest turnovers made (20).

Hamilton guard Brandon Revenberg was the finalist.

The Bombers win percentage of .786 under O’Shea this year was the franchise’s best since 1961. And despite playing a condensed 14-game schedule, Winnipeg reached double-digit wins for a fifth straight year,

O’Shea, 51, of North Bay, Ont., received 47 first-place votes in becoming the sixth Winnipeg coach to claim the award but first in 20 years. He was a finalist for the award in 2019.

Ryan Dinwiddie of the Toronto Argonauts was this year’s finalist.

Sara May, a registered nurse with Hamilton Health Services, received the Commissioner’s Award for outstanding contributions to the league. May also represented the many frontline workers nationally who’ve served throughout the pandemic.

Commissioner Randy Ambrosie also presented the Hugh Campbell Distinguished Leadership Award to Dr. Bob McCormack and Dr. Dhiren Naidu. They’re the league’s chief medical officers who established and maintained the CFL’s health-and-safety protocols.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats tackle Chris Van Zeyl was presented the Jake Gaudaur Veterans’ Award, given annually to a Canadian player who demonstrates the attributes of Canada’s veterans: strength, perseverance, courage, comradeship and contribution to Canadian communities. 

And Carol Longmuir, the B.C. Lions’ director of finance and administration, received the Jane Mawby Tribute Award, which recognizes a highly-valued, yet unsung current league or club employee.

Lokombo received 50 votes after registering 66 tackles — five short of his career high. He added 11 special-teams tackles, four sacks and a career-high three interceptions.

Lokombo was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, then moved to Montreal at the age of six before settling with his family in Abbotsford, B.C.

Lokombo is the 10th Lion to earn the honour and first since defensive lineman Ricky Foley in 2009.

Defensive lineman David Ménard of the Montreal Alouettes was the finalist.

Dedmon, who received 46 first-place votes, led the CFL in return touchdowns (three), punt return yards (737) and average (15.4), kickoff return yardage (1,223) and kickoff return average (25.0). He scored on punt returns of 73 and 64 yards as well as a 100-yard kickoff return.

Dedmon joins kicker Lewis Ward (2018) as the only Ottawa players to claim the award.

Calgary Stampeders kicker Rene Paredes was the finalist.

Williams, the first player taken in the 2020 CFL draft, recorded 92 defensive tackles to finish second overall and break O’Shea’s record for most tackles by a Canadian rookie (75 in 1993 with Hamilton). 

Williams, who had 46 first-place votes, also registered five special-teams tackles, two pass knockdowns, a sack, fumble recovery and an interception.

Williams, an American by birth who was deemed a Canadian by the CFL because his mother is from Toronto, becomes the 14th Lions player to earn the honour and first since linebacker Solomon Elimimian in 2010.

Offensive lineman Peter Nicastro of the Toronto Argonauts was the finalist.

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