Sports

Jon Cornish cleans up at CFL Awards

Scott Michell and Kirk Penton, QMI Agency

REGINA - 

It took 35 years, but the Canadian Football League finally has another homegrown Most Outstanding Player.

On the strength of 1,813 rushing yards and 14 total touchdowns, Calgary Stampeders star tailback Jon Cornish became the first Canuck MOP winner since Tony Gabriel won in 1978, pulling in 46-of-50 first-place votes to outdistance the competition, Toronto Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray.

Prior to Gabriel, Russ Jackson is the only other Canadian to win the award, a feat he accomplished three times in his career (1963, ’66 and ’69).

Cornish, a New Westminster, B.C., product, also took home Most Outstanding Canadian — the second year in a row he’s won top Canuck — to complete the double-dip.

“There were good Canadians when I was growing up in the CFL, but nobody won the MOP,” said Cornish, who broke his own record for rushing yards in a season by a Canadian. “Hopefully, somebody else will be inspired. I didn’t know this was a situation in the CFL, that a Canadian hadn’t won for a long time. I’m happy I could do it because I think it’ll really inspire kids in all different sports to just try your best and see what you can do. You never know what you’re capable of.

“I think it’s huge for the CFL and huge for Canadian football.”

Maybe the Lou Marsh Award as the country’s top athlete is next?

“This is a huge honour, but to be honoured among Canadians — all Canadians in all sport — there’s nothing that can really compare to that,” Cornish said. “Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, Christine Sinclair ... lots of big name Canadians.”

It was just the beginning for two types of Red and White on Thursday night inside the Conexus Centre at the Gibson’s Finest CFL Player Awards, as three different Stampeders took home four awards. Five awards on the night went to Canadians — the most in league history.

Stampeders offensive lineman Brett Jones, who started 18 games at centre for a team that finished with the best regular-season record in the CFL at 14-4, got the Red and White run started, beating out Hamilton Tiger-Cats running back C.J. Gable for Most Outstanding Rookie in a close 26-24 vote.

It’s rare for a rookie to start from the get-go, but Jones, 22, was also tasked with making all the protection calls for a football team with Grey Cup hopes, and forced the coaching staff to shift veteran Jon Gott over to left guard.

Jones, a product of Weyburn, Sask., about an hour southeast of Regina, accepted the award on the same stage he once took to with a tuba in his arms back in high school and had a large contingent of friends, family and former classmates in attendance.

“I’m probably better at football than I am at tuba,” said Jones, who drew laughs from the crowd when he said his pants were too tight, later noting they were brand new and he didn’t have time for alterations.

“Offensive line is a very important position in football and you see that lots of teams have had success in any level with a good offensive line ... hopefully, offensive linemen get more recognition like this,” Jones added.

Kicker Rene Paredes was the next Stampeder to hear his name called, winning Most Outstanding Special Teams Player after a sensational season that saw him break Paul McCallum’s record for consecutive field-goals made when he hit his 31st in a row on July 26 in Winnipeg.

His streak ended at 39, but he went on to break McCallum’s mark for single-season field-goal efficiency, finishing the season 54-of-57 for a 94.7%.

Fittingly, the 28-year-old undrafted kicker nailed two field-goals in Week 19 at B.C. Place, with McCallum looking on.

“How do I top it? I guess, go 95% ... and the Grey Cup,” Paredes said. “I wish I had a Grey Cup.”

Charleston Hughes was the only member of the Stamps to lose out, as Montreal Alouettes linebacker Chip Cox was named Most Outstanding Defensive Player.

Saskatchewan Roughriders left guard Brendon LaBatte took home Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman.

IT WASN'T ALL STAMPS

The Calgary Stampeders didn’t completely dominate the CFL awards on Thursday night.

Saskatchewan Roughriders left guard Brendon LaBatte won the most outstanding offensive lineman award, while Montreal Alouettes linebacker Chip Cox was named the loop’s most outstanding defensive player.

Cox believed his award was a long time coming.

“I’ve always felt like I’ve been the best defensive player, probably since 2009 or 2010,” Cox said. “Every year I’ve pretty much done what the coaches have asked me to do and done it a high level.

“I feel like I’ve been the best defensive player since then, and this year everybody else finally agrees with me. You couldn’t tell me any different.”

Cox was a menace on the field all season long for the Alouettes, making 115 tackles, 12 sacks, 12 tackles for a loss and four interceptions. He thanked Montreal defensive co-ordinator Noel Thorpe for allowing him to roam all over the field.

“He basically lets me do everything,” Cox said. “He didn’t ask me just to cover, he didn’t ask me just to blitz, he didn’t ask me just to make tackles. He needed me to be the best cover guy on the team, he needed me to be the best rusher on the team, and he needed me to be the best tackler on the team. No other defensive co-ordinator asked me to do those things.”

LaBatte, a Weyburn, Sask., native, joined the Roughriders two seasons ago and helped turn their line into one of the league’s best. He helped pave the way for running back Kory Sheets, and Saskatchewan allowed the third-fewest sacks.

LaBatte said the individual award is nice, but having the chance to win the Grey Cup on Sunday night against the Tiger-Cats would be the most memorable moment of his week.

“Personal recognition is something you look back on when your playing days are done,” LaBatte said. “You can say the status that you reached and the level that you took your game to, but unless you got the championship I don’t think your career is ever solidified the way it should be unless you have that ring.”

Alouettes linebacker Kyries Hebert won the Tom Pate Memorial Award for displaying qualities that distinguish him from his peers. He founded Ky Cares, a non-profit organization that supports youth.

Another Alouettes linebacker, Shea Emry, won the Jake Gaudaur Veterans’ Award for the leadership he shows on the field and in his public life. Emry revealed that he suffers from depression and founded the Change the Stigma organization, encouraging Canadians to speak out about mental health.

THE WINNERS' CIRCLE

The Sun’s Kirk Penton gives you a rundown on who scored big at the CFL Awards last night in Regina

Player

Jon Cornish (RB, Calgary)

Cornish led the league with 14 touchdowns, 1,813 rushing yards and 2,157 yards from scrimmage. He also had 42 catches for 344 yards and helped the Stamps finish with the league’s best record of 14-4.

Votes: 46 of 50

Runner-up: QB Ricky Ray, Toronto

Defensive Player

Chip Cox (LB, Montreal)

The 30-year-old was all over the field in 2013, recording 115 tackles, 12 sacks, 12 tackles for a loss, four interceptions and two pass knockdowns.

Votes: 42 of 50

Runner-up: DE Charleston Hughes, Calgary

Canadian

Jon Cornish

(RB, Calgary)

The 29-year-old New Westminster, B.C., product set the records this season for most rushing yards and most yards from scrimmage by a Canadian. He joins Tony Gabriel and Russ Jackson as top Canadians to also win MOP.

Votes: 48 of 50

Runner-up: LB Henoc Muamba, Winnipeg

Offensive Lineman

Brendon LaBatte

(LG, Saskatchewan)

The Weyburn, Sask., product anchored one of the CFL’s best offensive lines. The Riders had the league’s second-best rusher in Kory Sheets and the third fewest number of sacks allowed.

Votes: 37 of 50

Runner-up: C Jeff Keeping, Toronto

Special Teams

Rene Paredes (K, Calgary)

The Venezuela native broke the league record for most consecutive field goals made in the regular season, and he also had the best percentage in league history, connecting on 94.7% of his kicks.

Votes: 47 of 50

Runner-up: CB Marc Beswick, Hamilton

Rookie

Brett Jones (C, Calgary)

The 16th overall in this year’s draft is the first centre in league history to win the award. He contributed to a line that helped Calgary lead the league in rushing and allowed the fewest sacks.

Votes: 26 of 50

Runner-up: RB C.J. Gable, Hamilton

 


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