CFL ON TSN host Kate Beirness guided the proceedings during the league’s marquee event in the lead-up to the 108th Grey Cup. On-hand to assist with the presentation of the awards were a number of frontline workers from the Hamilton community, whose courageous actions mirrored their colleagues’ efforts from across the country, in safeguarding, protecting and providing for Canadians during the pandemic.
The CFL Awards winners were selected by a panel of voters, including representation from the Football Reporters of Canada (FRC) from all nine CFL markets, members of the national chapter of the FRC and the head coaches of the CFL. In total, 54 ballots were completed.
2021 CFL AWARDS WINNERS
- Most Outstanding Player: Zach Collaros, Quarterback, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
- Most Outstanding Defensive Player: Adam Bighill, Linebacker, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
- Most Outstanding Canadian: Bo Lokombo, Linebacker, BC Lions
- Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman: Stanley Bryant, Offensive lineman, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
- Most Outstanding Special Teams Player: DeVonte Dedmon, Returner, Ottawa REDBLACKS
- Most Outstanding Rookie: Jordan Williams, Linebacker, BC Lions
- Coach of the Year: Mike O’Shea, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
CFL MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER
ZACH COLLAROS, QB
WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS
Zach Collaros led the Blue Bombers to the league’s best record (11-3). The former Cincinnati Bearcat topped the CFL with 20 touchdown passes and an efficiency rating of 111, while passing for 3,185 yards and completing a career-high 70.2 per cent of his attempts. His passing efficiency ranks second all-time among Winnipeg starting pivots.
In his tenth CFL season, Collaros guided the top-ranked offence to league-highs in offensive points scored (322), offensive touchdowns (35), average gain per pass (8.4 yards) and passing efficiency (101.5).
The 33-year-old is the first Blue Bomber to take home the MOP since Milt Stegall in 2002. Collaros received 43 first-place votes.
CFL MOST OUTSTANDING DEFENSIVE PLAYER
ADAM BIGHILL, LB
WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS
Adam Bighill is the sixth in player in league history to win three Most Outstanding Defensive Player awards (2015 and 2018). This season, the nine-year veteran showed no signs of slowing, racking up 70 defensive tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a touchdown.
The Central Washington product anchored the CFL’s top-ranked defence, which led the league in fewest offensive points allowed (12.9 per game), fewest offensive touchdowns (15), lowest net offence (281.3), lowest 2nd down efficiency (40.3 per cent), most turnovers forced (38), and lowest opponent passing efficiency (71.3). Winnipeg allowed 13.4 points per game – the ninth-fewest points per game in CFL history and the lowest mark since 1970.
Bighill received 42 first-place votes.
MOST OUTSTANDING CANADIAN
BO LOKOMBO, LB
Despite the shortened 14-game season, Bo Lokombo fell just five defensive tackles shy of his career-high of 71; his 66 ranked tenth in the league and marked his third consecutive campaign with more than 50. He added 11 special teams tackles, while equaling his career best in sacks (four) and establishing a new personal benchmark in interceptions (three). His total of 92 defensive plays was good for sixth in the league.
The former Oregon Duck’s touchdown in Week 6 was the first of his six-year career. Lokombo is the tenth Lion to be recognized as the league’s top Canadian and the first since Ricky Foley in 2009.
Lokombo received 50 first-place votes.
MOST OUTSTANDING OFFENSIVE LINEMAN
WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS
Stanley Bryant is the first Blue Bomber to be named Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman on three occasions. The former East Carolina Pirate started 13-of-14 games this season and stool tall on an offensive line that allowed a league-low 16 sacks, while paving the way for a trio of 100-yard rushing performances from Andrew Harris, Brady Oliveira and Johnny Augustine. Winnipeg was able to run the ball more than any other team on first downs, averaging an impressive 5.54 yards per attempt.
Bryant and his linemates protected an offence that finished first in rushing touchdowns (14), and second in rushing yards per game (119.7) and yards per attempt (5.3). The team was No. 1 in passing efficiency (101.5) and 30+ yard completions (26), and drew even with Hamilton for the fewest turnovers made (20).
The Goldsboro, N.C., native is the ninth offensive lineman in Winnipeg history to win the award, finishing with 50 first-place votes.
MOST OUTSTANDING SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER
DEVONTE DEDMON, RET
Ottawa’s return man led the league in kick return touchdowns (3), punt return yards (737), punt return average (15.4), kickoff return yardage (1,223) and kickoff return average (25.0). The William & Mary standout accumulated 2,063 combined return yards, while recording 10 ‘big plays’ on returns.
Dedmon registered two punt return touchdowns (73- and 64-yards) and a kickoff return major (100-yards) this season. The Virginia native joins teammate Lewis Ward (2018) as the only Ottawa players to claim the award.
Dedmon received 46 first-place votes.
MOST OUTSTANDING ROOKIE
JORDAN WILLIAMS, LB
Jordan Williams led the Lions with 92 defensive tackles – good for second in the league, while adding five special teams tackles, two pass knockdowns, a sack, a fumble recovery and an interception in his rookie season. The 2020 first-overall selection in the CFL Draft shattered Mike O’Shea’s Canadian rookie record of 75 tackles, which had stood for nearly three decades.
Williams was the model of consistency, recording at least four tackles in all 14 games, and notching seven-or-more on eight occasions. He established a personal best of 10 in Week 3.
He is the 14th Lion to be named the top rookie, and the first since Solomon Elimimian entered the league in 2010. The former East Carolina Pirate received 46 first-place votes.
COACH OF THE YEAR
WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS
One season removed from capturing Winnipeg’s first Grey Cup since 1990, Mike O’Shea led the Bombers to an 11-3 season and their best winning percentage (.786) since 1961.
Despite the shortened season, O’Shea’s Bombers reached double digit wins for a fifth straight year, becoming the second coach in franchise history to accomplish the feat, trailing only Bud Grant’s run of six consecutive seasons from 1957 to 1962.
With 47 first-place votes, O’Shea is the sixth Winnipeg coach to claim the award and the first in 20 years. This is the franchise’s eighth Annis Stukus Award.
ADDITIONAL HONOURS PRESENTED AT THE 2021 CFL AWARDS
The Commissioner's Award, recognizing an individual or group for outstanding contributions to the league, was awarded to nurse Sara May, an Employee Health Registered Nurse with Hamilton Health Services. While she has been a pillar of strength and care in the Hamilton community, nurse May also represents her thousands of colleagues and the millions of frontline workers who have guided the nation through the pandemic.
As chosen by the Commissioner, the Hugh Campbell Distinguished Leadership Award in recognition of an individual or individuals who have demonstrated great leadership and have made significant contributions to the league, was awarded to Drs. McCormack and Naidu – the CFL’s Chief Medical Officers – for their leadership in establishing and maintaining the league’s health and safety protocols.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats offensive lineman Chris Van Zeyl received the Jake Gaudaur Veterans’ Award, which is given annually to a Canadian player who demonstrates the attributes of Canada’s veterans: strength, perseverance, courage, comradeship and contribution to Canadian communities.
The Jane Mawby Tribute Award, recognizing a highly-valued, yet too often unsung current employee at the club or league level, was presented to BC’s long-time Director of Finance & Administration, Carol Longmuir.
Hamilton Defensive Back, Mike Daly, was named the 2021 recipient of the Tom Pate Memorial Award. Selected by the CFL Players’ Association, the award celebrates outstanding sportsmanship and is given to a player who has made significant contributions to his team and his community Association.
The CFL Awards are the marquee event of Grey Cup Week, celebrating the season’s best performances and recognizing its leaders on and off the field. A number of fan favourite celebrations, such as the Spirit of Edmonton events and the Eastern and Western Social Halls, remain before the big game. Additional information can be found at greycupfestival.ca.
The 108th Grey Cup from Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field, featuring Arkells and special guests, The Lumineers, in the Twisted Tea Grey Cup Halftime Show, will be played on Sunday, December 12 at 6 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast live on TSN and RDS – Canada’s home of the CFL.