It is a sparkling item to add to a football resumé and an honour that is worthy of a slap on the back, a fist bump and a high five.
Yet, it’s hardly what the six members of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers named to the Canadian Football League 2022 All-Star team are fixated on today as the club heads out to Regina for Grey Cup week and a shot at a third-straight championship.
Named to the CFL’s star-studded squad on Tuesday were quarterback Zach Collaros, receiver Dalton Schoen, left tackle Stanley Bryant, guard Pat Neufeld, defensive back Deatrick Nichols and kick returner Janarion Grant.
The voting was conducted by 47 members of the Football Reporters of Canada, the league’s head coaches as well as submissions through the All-Star Fan Vote, with the announcement coming just a few hours before the squad went wheels up to Saskatchewan to begin preparation for Sunday’s 109th Grey Cup against the Toronto Argonauts.
As a salute to those honoured, we present a half-dozen numbers about the Blue Bombers Sensational Six:
Collaros has been named a CFL All-star for a second consecutive season, marking the first time a Blue Bombers QB has been so honoured since Dieter Brock in 1980-81.
Dating back to 1962, a Blue Bombers quarterback has been named to the CFL All-Star team 10 times: Ken Ploen (1965), Don Jonas (1971-72), Brock (1980-81), Tom Clements (1984, 1987), Khari Jones (2001) and now Collaros (2021-22).
Nichols, named an all-star for a second straight season, is the lone member of the Blue Bombers secondary to be named to the CFL All-Star Team – no doubt a result of all the injuries and changes the club has worked through in its air defence this year.
That said, with Nichols earning his spot it marks the sixth consecutive season a Blue Bombers defensive back has been among that all-star crew. The others, dating back from this year: 2021 (Nichols, safety Brandon Alexander and cornerback DeAundre Alford); 2019 (cornerback Winston Rose); 2018 (safety Taylor Loffler); 2017 (Loffler, cornerback Chris Randle and halfback T.J. Heath); 2016 (Heath and Loffler).
Schoen didn’t just lead the CFL in receiving yardage this year and set a record for most touchdowns by a first-year Blue Bomber with 16 TDs, he also posted the seventh-highest receiving total in club history.
His 1,441 yards ranks behind only Milt Stegall (1,896 in ’02; 1,616 in ’97 and 1,499 in ‘00), James Murphy (1,746 in ’86), Gerald Wilcox (1,624 in ’94) and Eugene Goodlow (1,494 in ’81).
Bryant, now a seven-time CFL All-Star, is the only player in league history to be named the league’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman three times. If he wins this week – he’s up against Hamilton Tiger-Cats guard Brandon Revenberg — that will increase his total to four and further cement his place as one of the greatest O-linemen in league history.
Hall of Famer Chris Walby has long stood above all else in the discussion as the greatest Blue Bombers lineman, but Bryant is easily now in that conversation.
The Blue Bombers acquired Neufeld in a trade with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in October of 2013 for defensive end Alex Hall, who was a division all-star in both 2012 and 2013 and was leading the league in sacks at the time of the trade.
Hall played only four games with the Roughriders after the deal, as he signed with the Carolina Panthers in 2014 before returning to the Riders a year later but not appearing in any games.
Neufeld, meanwhile, has suited up for 99 regular-season games for the Blue Bombers after the trade, has been named a CFL All-Star in consecutive seasons and is one of the anchors of the club’s offensive line.
The CFL didn’t add a kick-return position to its All-Star Team until 1986.
Grant becomes the sixth Blue Bombers return man to be named to the CFL squad since the designation was added, following Eric Blount (1998) Albert Johnson III (2000, 2006), Charles Roberts (2001) and Keith Stokes (2004).
Grant had three kick-return scores this year – plus another in the Western Final win over the B.C. Lions – and now ranks first all-time in Blue Bombers history with seven regular season kick-return touchdowns, one more than Stokes.