Bombers QB Collaros, Als RB Stanback up for Most Outstanding Player
Two first-time nominees will vie for the Canadian Football League’s 2021 Most Outstanding Player honour as Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros and running back William Stanback of the Montreal Alouettes were named as finalists for the award given to the league’s top player.
The league announced its finalists – one from the West and one from the East – for its seven top honours on Thursday with winners set to be revealed in a ceremony during Grey Cup week.
The Bombers, who finished the regular season with the CFL’s best record at 11-3, have the most representation with a finalist in four categories.
Fourteen of the last 20 MOPs have been QBs and Collaros will look to continue that trend. A 33-year-old native of Steubenville, OH, the Cincinnati product finished the season with 3,185 yards on 243-for-346 passing with a league-best 20 touchdowns and six interceptions in 13 games. Collaros also led the CFL in efficiency among qualified players at 111.0. He is looking to become the first Bombers player to win the award since slotback Milt Stegall in 2002.
His competition is Als’ standout Stanback. In his third CFL campaign, the 27-year-old Stanback comfortably won the rushing title, becoming the only running back in the league to reach the 1,000-yard mark and finishing the season with 1,176 yards on the ground. A native of Hempstead, NY, Stanback would become the first Als player to claim the honour since Anthony Calvillo won back-to-back MOPs in 2008 and 2009.
The Most Outstanding Defensive Player Award will be contested between two of the CFL’s biggest names in two-time prior winner linebacker Adam Bighill of the Bombers and Hamilton Tiger-Cats LB Simoni Lawrence, who was the East nominee for the award in 2019.
The Most Outstanding Defensive Player Award winner in 2015 and 2018, the 33-year-old Bighill finished his season with 70 defensive tackles, two sacks, two interceptions and a touchdown. A native of Montesano, Wash., Bighill is looking to become just the fifth man to win the honour three or more times behind Joe Montford, Willie Pless, James “Quick” Parker and Danny Kepley.
Lawrence, 32, finished as runner-up to Willie Jefferson in 2019 and looks to become the first Ticat to win the award since Markeith Knowlton in 2010. In 14 games this season, his ninth in the CFL, Lawrence had 73 defensive tackles, four sacks, three picks and a pair of touchdowns.
In the category of Most Outstanding Canadian, BC Lions linebacker Bo Lokombo of Abbotsford, B.C. is up against Als defensive lineman David Menard of Chicoutimi, Que.
Lokombo, 31, is in his third stint with the Lions. In 14 games in 2021, the Oregon product recorded 66 defensive tackles, 11 special teams tackles, four sacks, three interceptions, a forced fumble and a touchdown.
The 31-year-old Menard is in his first season with the Als after playing the first six seasons of his career with the Lions. His eight sacks were a joint third-best in the CFL this season. He also added 18 defensive tackles and a pair of forced fumbles.
Blue Bombers veteran Stanley Bryant will look to claim his third Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman award in four seasons as the West’s nominee but is up against a stiff challenge in Brandon Revenberg of the Ticats.
Bryant, 35, is in his 11th CFL season and sixth with Winnipeg. Should the Goldsboro, NC native claim the award, Bryant would become the first ever three-time winner.
Revenberg, 28, was the 2019 Most Outstanding Canadian. The Essex, Ont. native has played the entirety of his five-year CFL career in Hamilton and will look to become the second straight Ticat to win the award following Chris Van Zeyl in 2019 after a Hamilton player hadn’t claimed the honour once in the previous 45 years.
Calgary Stampeders veteran kicker Rene Paredes can become a two-winner of the John Agro Special Teams Award, but most overcome the challenge of Ottawa Redblacks kick returner DeVonte Dedmon.
Paredes, 36, was the recipient of the award in 2013. This season, his 10th campaign, Paredes was 44-for-48 on field-goal attempts and produced 3,281 yards on kickoffs.
Dedmon, 25, was the runaway leader in punt returns with 737 yards, 271 more than Frankie Williams of the Ticats in second place, and a pair of TDs. On kickoff returns, the William & Mary product was equally dominant, recording 1,223 yards – almost doubling up second-place Toronto Argonauts returner Chandler Worthy’s 613 yards – on 49 returns with a TD.
The first-overall pick of the 2020 CFL Draft, Lions linebacker Jordan Williams goes up against Argos OL Peter Nicastro for Most Outstanding Rookie.
A product of East Carolina, the 27-year-old Williams recorded 92 defensive tackles, five special teams tackles, one sack and an interception in his debut season. Williams would become the first Lions player to win the award since fellow LB Solomon Elimimian in 2010.
The seventh-overall pick in 2021 out of Calgary, the Calgary-born Nicastro was a difference maker on the Argonauts’ O-line, appearing in 11 games this season. Brett Jones of the Stamps was the last offensive lineman to win the award in 2013.
Finally, it will be Argos rookie coach Ryan Dinwiddie going up against an Argos legend, Mike O’Shea of the Blue Bombers, for the Annis Stukus Trophy given to the CFL’s top coach of the year.
O’Shea, 51, is in his seventh season as Bombers head coach and followed up leading the team to its first Grey Cup in three decades in 2019 with posting the CFL’s best regular season record in 2021 at 11-3. Dave Ritchie in 2001 was the last Bombers coach to claim the honour.
Dinwiddie, 40, joined the Argos after four seasons with the Stamps as QBs coach, winning the Grey Cup in 2018. In his first season as a head coach, Dinwiddie led the Argos to a 9-5 mark, good for top spot in the East.