Trio of Bombers awards finalists

The Canadian Football League announced the West and East finalists for the 2021 most outstanding player awards and three members of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were voted through.

Quarterback Zach Collaros (most outstanding player), left tackle Stanley Bryant (most outstanding O-lineman) and linebacker Adam Bighill (most outstanding defensive player) will represent the West Division. They’ll be up against the East nominees, with Montreal Alouettes running back William Stanback, Hamilton Tiger-Cats O-lineman Brandon Revenberg and Tiger-Cats linebacker Simoni Lawrence also getting the nod.

<p>Linebacker Adam Bighill says it’s humbling to be a finalist for the Most Outstanding Defensive Player award.</p>
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Linebacker Adam Bighill says it’s humbling to be a finalist for the Most Outstanding Defensive Player award.

The voting was conducted by members of The Football Reporters of Canada (FRC) and the league’s head coaches. The most outstanding player award winners will be announced Friday night, during Grey Cup week in Hamilton.

Collaros is favoured to win the award over Stanback, who led the CFL with 1,176 rushing yards. The Bombers pivot led the league in passing touchdowns (20) and passing efficiency rating (111), while finishing second in passing yards, 3,185.

Winnipeg finished 11-2 this season with Collaros as the starter and is 15-2 dating back to the 2019 Grey-Cup winning year. It’s the first time in his career he’s been named a division finalist.

“It’s nice to be recognized for your accomplishments. We’ve worked hard this season, and having a year off, had a lot of time to sit around and think about the season, put more work into it,” Collaros said. “These accomplishments and this recognition are nice. But we all signed up for one thing, and it’s to win the West and go on to play in the Grey Cup and win that, too.”

After finishing top in the West Division with an 11-3 record, the Bombers have a bye this week and will meet the winner between the Calgary Stampeders and Saskatchewan Roughriders at IG Field on Dec. 5.

<p>Stanley Bryant is up for his third Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman award. </p>
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Stanley Bryant is up for his third Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman award.

Bryant will represent the West and the division’s top O-lineman for the fourth consecutive year. He won the award in 2017 and 2018 but fell just short in 2019 to Hamilton’s Chris Van Zeyl.

While Bryant is up for the league award, earlier this week he and three other members of the O-line were voted West Division all-stars, including guards Drew Desjarlais and Patrick Neufeld, as well as right tackle Jamarcus Hardrick. Centre Michael Couture was snubbed in favour of Calgary’s Sean McEwan.

“That’s a great accomplishment for our group,” said Bryant, when asked about the consecutive West nominations. “Our group, over the years, has gotten better and better.”

Bryant said the statistic the O-line takes the most pride in is their league-low 16 sacks allowed. Calgary finished second, with 20, followed by Toronto (32). Ottawa gave up a league-worst 53 sacks.

“We try to keep the quarterback upright,” Bryant said. “(Hardrick), he’s very detailed about that. He lets us know each and every week where we sit in that.”

Bighill has the chance to earn his third most outstanding defensive player award, after last winning it in 2018 – his first year with the Bombers. The Bombers middle linebacker had a stellar season, leading the Bombers with 70 defensive tackles, while adding two sacks, two forced fumbles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.

“It’s guys playing good team football, but also guys likely making lots of plays and that’s what we saw all year long. Guys being playmakers,” Bighill said. “So, very fortunate to be among this group of guys, and to obviously be nominated. Our defensive locker room is so talented; to be the guy named is very humbling.”

Bighill was also thrilled to see head coach Mike O’Shea become a finalist for coach of the year. O’Shea also played middle linebacker and the two have grown close over their time together in Winnipeg.

“Mike, it really starts top down. I do believe that,” Bighill said. “For him, it’s just play for each other, play clean, tough, physical football for each other. It’s all started somewhere, but it’s definitely started from the top.”

There was another honour announced Thursday, with Winnipeg play-by-play legend, Bob Irving, set to become the 13th member of the Blue Bombers Ring of Honour. Irving, who is retiring after this season following a 47-year career, will be recognized prior to kickoff for the Dec. 5 West final at IG Field.

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.catwitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

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