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November 23, 2018

CFL Awards: Bighill, Bryant Honoured

EDMONTON – Adam Bighill and Stanley Bryant helped give the Canadian Football League’s Most Outstanding Player Awards a healthy tinge of blue and gold Thursday night in the Alberta capital.

The two Winnipeg Blue Bombers were honoured at the Shaw CFL Awards at Winspear Centre – Bighill as the Most Outstanding Defensive Player; Bryant as the Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman – while Andrew Harris was the runner-up to Brad Sinopoli of the Ottawa RedBlacks in a close vote as the Most Outstanding Canadian Player.

Both Bighill and Bryant are repeat winners, with the Bombers middle linebacker also honoured as the top defender while with the B.C. Lions in 2015, while Bryant won the same honour just last year.

Harris, meanwhile, was a runner-up after winning the top Canadian honour in 2017.

Bighill is the fourth Blue Bomber to be named Most Outstanding Defensive Player and first since Jovon Johnson in 2011. The others: Tyrone Jones in 1985 and Greg Battle in 1990 and 1991.

He received 57 of a possible 60 votes over the East Division finalist, Hamilton Tiger-Cats linebacker Larry Dean.

“I’m just thankful because there’s so many great players in this league and to be nominated as the best defensive player is truly humbling and truly special,” said Bighill, who finished third in the CFL in total defensive plays with 127, including 105 tackles, four sacks, a league-best four forced fumbles, two interceptions – including one for a touchdowns – and eight tackles for a loss.

“You don’t win a Grey Cup, it’s hard to be happy. But the thing is we shared a lot of great memories, had a lot of great games and had a great locker room. I love my teammates in that locker room. So this award is really a reflection of them. It’s an icing on the cake of being able to spend a year with them and be awarded. It’s definitely an extension of them.”

Bryant is the first CFL O-lineman to win in back-to-back seasons since Scott Flory of the Montreal Alouettes in 2008 and 2009. He received 44 first place votes to 16 for Tiger-Cats guard Brandon Revenberg.

Six different Bombers have combined to win the Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman award eight times – Bryant in 2017 and 2018, Dave Mudge in 2001, Chris Walby in 1993 and 1987, Nick Bastaja in 1985, John Bonk in 1984 and Larry Butler in 1981.

“Even going back to my days in Calgary I was nominated a few times, but never thought I’d actually win that thing,” said Bryant, who was part of an offence that finished first in scoring and led the CFL in rushing. And then to be able to win back-to-back now is a big deal. It’s an honour.”

Bryant, a quiet man with a big smile whose Twitter handle @MyHumble_Self might perfectly describe his personality, made sure to thank his mother, who was in attendance, his teammates, offensive line coach Marty Costello and Bombers President and CEO Wade Miller, GM Kyle Walters and Head Coach – whom he referred to as the ‘Canadian Mafia.’

But it’s the men he lines up with in the trenches that drew special praise afterward.

“We all put in the work in the meeting rooms, at practice, all over. We’re all just helping each other with different things,” said Bryant. “It’s a group award and this group is one of the special groups I’ve been a part of. I love those guys.”

Harris led the CFL in rushing with 1,390 yards, a career best, and also added 58 receptions for 451 yards, with 11 touchdowns in total – the third-highest total in the league.

Sinopoli set a record for receptions by a Canadian with 116 and edged out Harris in the voting 32-28.

The other award winners Thursday night included Calgary Stampeders QB Bo Levi Mitchell (Most Outstanding Player) and Ottawa kicker Lewis Ward (Most Outstanding Special Teams Player and Most Outstanding Rookie). Saskatchewan Roughriders boss Chris Jones was named Coach of the Year.

The league also recognized others, with B.C. Lions icon Wally Buono awarded the Hugh Campbell Distinguished Leadership Award; Rolly Lumbala, also of the Lions, was named the winner of the Jake Gaudaur Veterans’ Award; former O-lineman and RDS broadcaster Pierre Vercheval is the recipient of the Commissioner’s Award while Ryan King of the Edmonton Eskimos was honoured with the prestigious CFLPA Tom Pate Memorial Award.