December 22, 2018

Year in Review | #4 Bighill/Bryant Honoured

It’s become a regular occurrence now during Grey Cup week.

Over the last three years, at least one member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers has stood at the podium during the Canadian Football League’s Most Outstanding Player Awards and given an acceptance speech after being honoured.

It was Justin Medlock in 2016 as the league’s Most Outstanding Special Teams Player. A year later it was Andrew Harris as the Most Outstanding Canadian and Stanley Bryant as the Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman. And this past November at the Winspear Centre in Edmonton was no different, as both Bryant and Adam Bighill – as the Most Outstanding Defensive Player – were both feted as the best of the best.

The next step for the franchise, of course, is to have players again honoured, but have all of their teammates with them to witness the event before participating in the Grey Cup game the following Sunday.

WATCH: Bryant’s acceptance speech

The spectacular seasons authored by Bryant and Bighill comes in at #4 in our Year in Review series outlining the Top 10 stories of the Bombers 2018 campaign.

Just to put this recent string of individual honours into perspective, a member of the Bombers has been honoured as the Most Outstanding Player, Rookie, Defensive Player, Offensive Lineman/Lineman (the Most Outstanding Lineman award was split into defence and offensive lineman in 1974), Canadian and Special Teams Player 43 times dating back to 1954.

And the five award winners in the last three years – Bryant twice, Harris, Bighill and Medlock once each – ended a drought from 2013-16 where the Bombers were absent entirely from the MOP festivities. Harris, for the record, also finished as the runner-up to Ottawa’s Brad Sinopoli as Most Outstanding Canadian by a vote of 32-28.

“I’m just thankful because there are so many great players in this league and to be nominated as the best defensive player is truly humbling and truly special,” said Bighill on awards night.

“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.”

WATCH: Bighill’s acceptance speech

It was the second top defensive player award for Bighill, who also won in 2015 as a member of the B.C. Lions. He also became the fourth 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.

Bryant, meanwhile, was the first O-lineman to win in back-to-back seasons since Scott Flory of the Montreal Alouettes in 2008 and 2009, and just the second Bomber – after Chris Walby in 1987 and 1993 to win the award twice.

“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.”

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 most special groups I’ve been a part of. I love those guys.”

Bighill, it should be said, was the best free-agent addition in 2018. Not only was he an all-over-the-field playmaker, he brought stability and leadership to a defence that morphed into a power by season’s end. Bryant has also truly found a home in Winnipeg after leaving Calgary during free agency following the 2014 season.

“Someone told me it’s sometimes better to be a big fish in a small pond,” he said. “And so you can think about the NFL or whatever, but I’m so glad I came up here. It’s just funny how life works sometimes.

“Canada has shown nothing but love to me. I’m grateful for what this country has given to me and my family. I honestly call Canada my second home now because I’ve been up here for so long.”

This is the seventh installment of a series recapping the Top 10 Bomber stories of 2018.

Next: #3 – The Rebound