The 2011 Gibson’s Finest CFL Player Awards were handed out on Thursday evening in Vancouver.
Presenting the first award was the 2002 CFL Most Outstanding Rookie, Jason Clermont. The award was presented to Hamilton Tiger-Cats receiver Chris Williams.
The product of New Mexico State is the first receiver to win the award since 2008, when Saskatchewan Roughriders slotback Weston Dressler took home the award.
Williams is the fourth receiver to win the award since Clermont’s victory in 2002. He is also the first Tiger-Cat to win the award since the 1993 season, when linebacker Mike O’Shea was the winner.
Offensively, Williams is the first Ticat to win the award since 1983 when running back Johnny Shepherd was given the hardware.
Up next, Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive back Jovon Johnson staked his claim to the award for top defensive player. He beat out Saskatchewan Roughriders linebacker Jerrell Freeman, earning 37 of the votes.
Johnson becomes the first defensive back to ever win the award, and is the first Blue Bomber to win the award since linebacker Greg Battle won back-to-back awards in 1990 and 1991.
Montreal Alouettes left tackle Josh Bourke was honoured with the award for Top Offensive Lineman. Bourke is the third Alouette to win the award in the past four seasons, although two of the three were won by the same player – Scott Flory.
Bourke is also the second consecutive left tackle to win the award. Last season, Calgary Stampeders blindside protector Ben Archibald took the award. The native of Windsor, Ontario is the first Alouettes tackle to win the award since 1999 when Uzooma Okeke took the honour.
In CFL history, Canadian running backs have come and gone – mostly without notice. However, we are starting to see a little bit more of a ‘running’ trend. You have Calgary Stampeders Jon Cornish, as well as the BC Lions Andrew Harris. Then there is the winner of the 2011 Most Outstanding Canadian Player award, Jerome Messam
Messam became the first Canadian running back to rush for over 1,000 yards since the 2000 season when Sean Millington achieved the feat with the BC Lions.
Messam spent the 2010 season with the Lions, before he was traded to the Eskimos during training camp. He is the second Eskimos player to win the award in four seasons, after receiver Kamau Peterson won the honour in 2008.
Paul McCallum is still kicking at age 41. In 2011, he re-defined the position at an all-time standard.
McCallum missed just three field goals throughout the regular season, on his way to becoming the most accurate kicker in a single CFL season. McCallum’s mark beat the previous record set by Lui Passaglia, who presented McCallum with the award.
McCallum is the second kicker in the 13 year history of the award to earn the honour. Returners Ian Smart and Jimmy Cunningham were previous winners of the award for the Lions.
The final award of the night was presented by two former winners. Milt Stegall (2002) and Danny McManus (1999) took to the stage where they awarded BC Lions quarterback Travis Lulay as the 2011 CFL Most Outstanding Player.
Lulay becomes the fifth straight quarterback to take the honour, and is the first winner for the Lions since Geroy Simon in 2006.
Overall, Lulay is the third Lions quarterback to ever win the honour, joining Casey Printers (2004) and Doug Flutie (1993).
Lulay is also the first player under the age of 30 to win the award since Printers made the mark.
On Sunday, Lulay will aim to become the fourth player since 2006 to win both the MOP award and the Grey Cup in the same weekend. Previous to Anthony Calvillo (2009), Kerry Joseph (2007) and Geroy Simon (2006), you have to go back to the late 90’s, when Danny McManus achieved the feat in 1999.
All six award winners embody the spirit of the Canadian Football League, and are each great ambassadors for the game.