It is both a gaudy and impressive number that says so much about the dominant 2021 season of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. And, as jaw-dropping a total as it is, it will mean absolutely nothing when the Western Final kicks off at IG Field on December 5th.
Still, this is certainly something worth celebrating: The Canadian Football League unveiled its divisional all-star teams on Wednesday, with the Bombers – the team that rolled to a league-best 11-3 record – leading the way with 15 players selected to the West Division side. That list includes quarterback Zach Collaros, receivers Kenny Lawler and Nic Demski and 4/5 of the offensive line in tackles Stanley Bryant and Jermarcus Hardrick and guards Pat Neufeld and Drew Desjarlais on offence. And on defence the list of Bombers features defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Willie Jefferson, linebacker Adam Bighill, dime back Alden Darby, cornerback DeAundre Alford, defensive back Deatrick Nichols and safety Brandon Alexander, along with special-teams demon Mike Miller.
Here are 5 numbers/facts to know about that astonishing total…
That division all-star total is actually not the most in Blue Bombers history, but does rank second. Back in 1993, then as members of the East Division, the Bombers placed 17 players on the divisional all-star team.
Just to reminisce, that list included quarterback Matt Dunigan, fullback Chris Johnstone, running back Michael Richardson, receivers Gerald Wilcox and David Williams, offensive linemen Chris Walby, Dave Vankoughnett and David Black on offence. And on defence there were defensive tackles Loyd Lewis and Stan Mikawos, linebacker Elfrid Payton, defensive backs Donald Smith, Bobby Evans, Kim Phillips and Darryl Sampson, punter Bob Cameron and kicker Troy Westwood.
The Bombers placed four players from their offensive line on the West All-Star team in Stanley Bryant, Jermarcus Hardrick, Drew Desjarlais and Pat Neufeld. Only centre Michael Couture was left out and he is likely the victim of voters not wanting to give Winnipeg a clean sweep along the offensive trenches and the fact the centre position is strong in the West, with Sean McEwen of Calgary earning the nod, and veterans like Dan Clark in Saskatchewan, David Beard in Edmonton and Peter Godber in B.C. manning the position.
We went back to 1949 and scoured the divisional all-star teams to, unofficially, discover this: the Bombers placing four members of their O-line on the West Division is a first for the West. It has happened six times in the East (with one fewer team for many seasons) with Montreal accomplishing it in 1954, 1997, 2002, 2004 and 2008 and Hamilton in 1962.
Of the 15 Bombers named to the West Division all-star squad, 10 were first-timers in Collaros, Lawler, Demski, Neufeld, Desjarlais, Jeffcoat, Alexander, Alford, Nichols and Darby.
Seven and Six
Meanwhile, earning divisional all-star berths have become commonplace for Bighill and Bryant, who have been named to the West team seven and six times, respectively. Bighill has been named twice as a member of the Bombers – in 2021 and 2018 and from 2012-16 as a regular with the B.C. Lions. Bryant earned his first two spots on the West team as a member of the Calgary Stampeders, back in 2013-14, and then from 2017-19 and 2021 in Bombers blue and gold.
The number of Blue Bombers all-stars who are Canadian in Demski, Desjarlais, Neufeld and Miller. The last time the club had four Canadians named to the divisional all-star team was in 2018 when Andrew Harris, Sukh Chungh, Matthias Goossen and Taylor Loffler were all named.
The club record for most Canadians named to a divisional all-star team is nine, and comes from the ’93 season (see above). That team featured Canadians Johnstone, Walby, Black, Vankoughnett, Wilcox, Mikawos, Sampson, Cameron and Kennerd.