Bighill’s award a victory for entire Blue Bombers defence

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HAMILTON — Adam Bighill was the individual getting a major award on Friday night but his win was one for the entire Winnipeg Blue Bombers defence.

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“This is a we award, and not a me award,” Bighill said. “This year, just to be nominated from my team was an incredible honour because there are several others who could have been nominated as well.”

Bighill was named the CFL’s most outstanding defensive player for the third time in his career, and second time in his three seasons with the Bombers, at the CFL Awards at the Hamilton Convention Centre.

“To be standing here for a third time is beyond a dream come true,” Bighill said.

“You really have to look at it as a team award with what our defence has done this year, collectively, as a group. The stats speak for themselves and that’s definitely more than one person. I’m humbled to be the one chosen and humbled to be able to work with these teammates every day.”

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Bighill was the centrepiece of a ferocious defence in 2021, a group that was so strong, any number of Bombers players could have been candidates for the defensive MOP award.

“It’s definitely big for the whole defence,” defensive back Nick Taylor said Friday, just before the Bombers practised at McMaster University.

“Without the guys around him, he doesn’t get recognition for that award and without him, our defence is not as good as we showed. For him to get recognition for that award, I feel like the whole defence will take that award with him.”

Bighill actually finished eighth in the league in defensive tackles, with 70, but as he’s the best player on the best defence in the CFL, voters weren’t simply looking at stats.

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His teammates believe he’s the best because he works harder than anybody else and has the versatility to make players all over the field.

“The time he puts in is more time than anybody on the team,” Taylor said. “He does everything, he’s everywhere. He’s at safety, he’s in the box, he’s blitzing and he makes plays.”

Bombers coach Mike O’Shea can sometimes barely express how important Bighill has been to the organization since signing as a free agent ahead of the 2018 season.

“On a regular basis I’m inspired by him and his work ethic and his excellence,” said O’Shea, who was a Hall of Fame middle linebacker himself in his playing days.

“If he’s gonna do something, he’s gonna do it all out, with every ounce of his being and he’s gonna do it right. That’s every little thing in his life and it really is inspiring.”

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AWARDS? MEH …

The Bombers had four players up for major awards on Friday — and they all won — but O’Shea said none of them really wanted to be there.

He said, to a man, the players would prefer to be in their hotel rooms, watching film and getting ready for Sunday’s Grey Cup matchup with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, instead of celebrating their own achievements at a gala.

“You get through it,” said O’Shea, who was named coach of the year for the first time in his seven season at the helm. “It’s necessary for the CFL. It helps promote the league and promote the players that are excellent players in this league. But I do believe that they enjoy the preparation for the game and they probably enjoy the preparation for the game more than an evening like tonight.”

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HAT TRICK FOR BRYANT

He narrowly missed out on making history two years ago, but Stanley Bryant was not about to be denied this time around.

Bryant was named the CFL’s most outstanding offensive lineman for the third time Friday night, becoming the first player to ever score a hat trick in that awards’ category.

Many players have done it twice, including Bombers’ legend Chris Walby, but Bryant stands alone with a third award.

He lost by two votes to Chris Van Zeyl of the Tiger-Cats in 2019.

“He’s been the best or considered one of the best O-linemen in the CFL for a long time,” O’Shea said. “I do believe you can build a foundation for your offence around your offensive line. I think we have and they’ve had a large hand in us winning football games. He would be a major part of that because he’s excellent. He’s very professional, he’s unbelievable at his craft and he’s a hell of a good guy.”

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COLLAROS A ‘JOKESTER’

Zach Collaros won the league’s Most Outstanding Player award for the first time in his career on Friday and earlier in the day his teammate, receiver Drew Wolitarsky, was asked what makes the 33-year-old quarterback tick.

Apparently being cool, calm and businesslike doesn’t mean a player can’t also be a lot of fun to be around.

“He’s a jokester and I think you need a little bit of humour, especially in this line of work,” Wolitarsky said. “It’s an intense job, man, especially for the quarterback.

“There’s this ability to laugh at himself that he has and just laugh at things in general. It’s this ability to continue to persevere, do what you have to do and then laugh about it afterward. It’s a healing thing. I think we all buy into that.”

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PLAYERS MAKE THE COACH

While O’Shea would always shy away from the spotlight when it comes to league awards he’s very deserving of being named coach of the year in 2021.

No coach did a better job of getting players to come back after the 2020 seaosn was cancelled, getting them prepared for the delayed, shortened season, without the benefit of pre-season games, and getting the players to feed off the winning culture. He gets players to buy in as well as any coach in the game, and yet his not likely to ever take credit for something like that.

“The simple answer is we’ve got the right players in the building,” O’Shea said. “That’s just what it is. They’re professional, they enjoy working hard, they create the atmosphere and then it attracts other like-minded individuals.”

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The players threw the credit right back at the man they call “Osh.”

“To see the growth from him and the team and the way he has believed in the guys that we have, the way he has helped us, as men, to grow everyday, he’s a special coach,” said Bryant. “He’s one of the guys you can talk to, you can lean on, and you know he’ll be straight forward with you. We all love him to death and it’s a great honour for him to win tonight.”

Twyman@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Ted_Wyman

CFL AWARDS

MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER

Zach Collaros, QB, Winnipeg

43 first-place votes

DEFENSIVE PLAYER

Adam Bighill, LB, Winnipeg

42 first-place votes

CANADIAN

Bo Lokombo, LB, B.C.

50 first-place votes

OFFENSIVE LINEMAN

Stanley Bryant, Winnipeg

50 first-place votes

SPECIAL TEAMS

DeVonte Dedmon, KR, Ottawa

46 first-place votes

ROOKIE

Jordan Williams, LB, B.C.

46 first-place votes

COACH OF THE YEAR

Mike O’Shea, Winnipeg

47 first-place votes

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