The nominees are chosen by their respective clubs; the recipient is chosen by a committee and honoured during the Shaw CFL Awards at Grey Cup Weekend. This year’s awards gathering will take place at the Shaw Centre and hosted by TSN’s James Duthie on November 23rd in Ottawa.
Here is the list of the nine nominees for the 2017 CFL season:
MIKE BENSON, BC LIONS
Benson is celebrated by his teammates and fans for his hard work, dedication and consistency. He takes time to mentor young Lions on and off the field of play, encouraging fellow players to create post-football plans. A former Community Development major, Benson applies his skills and passion using his platform. In addition to running his own non-profit football skills program, Benson frequently visits schools to give anti-bully presentations, spends time at the BC Children’s Hospital, supports Northern Prairie Paws and Cvet’s Pets, and promotes the “I Love to Read” program. He also supports training athletes for the Special Olympics alongside raising money for the Motionball program.
MATT O’DONNELL, EDMONTON ESKIMOS
Matt O’Donnell was an encouraging and positive presence to Edmonton’s locker room in a season where his life was touched by an important issue. The champion of this year’s PINK initiative, he spent a short time away from the team to be with his mother as she fought breast cancer. He fundraised for women’s cancer research through the team’s Annual Women’s Dinner in support of the Lois Hole Hospital for Women. O’Donnell is also a big contributor to the annual amateur football camp and the Eskimos Kids Club, spending time with the kids after games win or lose.
ROB COTE, CALGARY STAMPEDERS
A team captain and 11-year CFL veteran, Cote is a proponent of accountability in the locker room and in life, leading by example and supporting his teammates. A fullback who contributes on special teams, Cote plays through all situations and all manner of wear and tear to give his all. As someone who grew up on the other end of the Stampeder-fan relationships, Cote feels a responsibility to use his platform to make a difference. In addition to supporting his own causes and those of teammates, he’s the Stampeders’ spokesman for Hospice Calgary, visiting and supporting families as they deal with terminal illness.
DAN CLARK, SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS
Dan Clark is a model of perseverance, spending three seasons on the Riders’ practice roster dedicating himself to his craft before getting his opportunity in 2012. While on the injured list for nine games in 2017, Clark remained involved in helping to prepare and support his fellow offensive linemen, supporting his teammates in his absence. Seeing the impact Riders veteran and players have on their community, Clark became the face of the Roughriders’ Red Cross anti-bullying program in addition to participating in We Day and visiting schools across Saskatchewan.
JAMAAL WESTERMAN, WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS
A dedicated teammate, Westerman didn’t step away from the spotlight after he suffered a season-ending injury in the Banjo Bowl. Instead he stayed in Winnipeg and use the opportunity to be a vocal support for his teammates, a positive presence for the locker room, and a sort of coach for the younger players stepping in to fill his absence. He also made his presence felt in the community as team ambassador for the CP Beautiful Heart Campaign, the Bombers’ Anti-Bullying program and the Break the Silence on Violence Against Women initiative. A true team player, Westerman regularly makes visits to the Children’s Hospital, amateur football teams, schools, and other community appearances.
COURTNEY STEPHEN, HAMILTON TIGER-CATS
Stephen started the Overtime Football Club, recruiting other football players and guest coaches to encourage local talent to pursue education through sport; he also threw a back-to-school football camp providing school supplies for underprivileged youth. He and a teammate implemented an extra film study group to build chemistry on the secondary. Stephen is the face of the GIVE LIFE movement with Canadian Blood Services and the Findlay Defensive Difference Makers program in support of the John Howard Society which helps integrate individuals back into society at the end of their sentence. He also makes appearances with Be Fit assemblies and Hearts in the Huddle for McMaster Children’s Hospital and started a campaign to provide shoes and socks for the homeless. This year he became a face of the Ticats’ “Be More Than A Bystander” program with Interval House of Hamilton and trained to speak at schools.
JAMAL CAMPBELL, TORONTO ARGONAUTS
Living proof of the impact of CFL community programs, Jamal Campbell had never played football until Grade 10, when the Argos brought their “Level the Playing Field” program to his school. Campbell is now dedicated to giving back to his neighbourhood and supporting young people, working with the Boys and Girls club in North York and local programs for disadvantaged youth. With the Argos, Campbell has taken the time to learn multiple offensive line positions to put the team in a better position to succeed while reaching out to help American teammates feel at home and help his teammates prepare for games. Campbell is also a recipient of a Toronto Urban Hero Award in the Sports category for his outstanding work to help others in his neighbourhood.
ALEX MATEAS, OTTAWA REDBLACKS
A model of perseverance, Mateas hasn’t missed a single game while playing one of the most physical positions. Mateas had to change positions midway through the season to fill an injury left by a veteran and stepped up the plate to support his team; a young player himself, he is dedicated to helping new offensive linemen. A product of the local minor football association, Mateas has committed many hours to passing on his football knowledge to local young athletes in addition to numerous school assembly visits. Mateas is also a featured player at Ottawa Paint Day in support of the Breast Health Centre at the Ottawa Hospital.
LUC BRODEUR-JOURDAIN, MONTREAL ALOUETTES
The last player selected in the 2008 Draft, Luc helped the Alouettes to back-to-back Grey Cup wins in addition to completing school and eventually obtaining his master’s degree. He made 97 consecutive starts at centre before tearing his ACL and MCL, injuries he played through as he helped the Alouettes fight for their 2015 playoff hopes. Brodeur-Jourdain vowed to come back stronger and did, returning to resume his role and foster team camaraderie, welcoming new players. He is a pillar of the Alouettes’ Together at School program, encouraging kids to pursue their education, and is also involved with the Mira Foundation, which pairs disabled and visually-impaired people with trained dogs. He participated in Defi-Vision, guiding a visually-impaired race car driver on a track, and regularly assists local charities and minor football teams.
Previous winners include Matt Black (TOR), Jeff Perrett (MTL, 2015), James Yurichuk (TOR, 2014), Shea Emry (MTL, 2013), Graeme Bell (SSK, 2012), Andre Durie (TOR, 2011) and Mike McCullogh (SSK, 2010).
This year’s Jake Gaudaur Veterans’ Award will be honoured during the Shaw CFL Awards on Thursday November 23rd during Grey Cup week in Ottawa.