No Winnipeg Blue Bomber who showed up to the 2021 CFL Awards left empty-handed.
Quarterback Zach Collaros was named the league’s Most Outstanding Player, linebacker Adam Bighill the league’s top defender, Mike O’Shea the best coach, and Stanley Bryant the top offensive lineman – a perfect four-for-four performance for the Winnipeg nominees.
Collaros is the first member of the blue and gold to win the league’s top honour since Milt Stegall in 2002, receiving 43 of 54 first-place votes.
He led the explosive Bombers offence with 20 touchdown passes and a 111 efficiency rating, the second-highest of all time among Winnipeg’s starting signal-callers.
The Bombers offence ranked highest in the CFL in points, touchdowns, passing efficiency and average gain per pass.
At age 33, it is a high point in a career that has turned around since Bombers general manager Kyle Walters traded for Collaros just seconds before the 2019 trade deadline.
Bighill is one step closer to the CFL’s Hall of Fame after winning his third career Most Outstanding Defensive Player award, only the sixth player to achieve that feat.
He received 42 of 54 first-place votes.
Bighill was the key cog on a Bombers defence that will go down as one of the best the league has ever seen — with four takeaways, a defensive touchdown, 70 tackles and two sacks.
The stingy unit allowed only 15 offensive touchdowns in 14 games, forced a league-high 38 turnovers, and allowed just 13.4 points per game, the lowest total in 51 years, which lands them in the top 10 defences of all time.
Bryant is also a newly-minted three-time award winner at his position, taking home his third Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman award in the past four seasons.
The Bombers offensive line kept their quarterbacks exceptionally clean, with just 16 sacks in 14 games.
All three of Winnipeg’s top running backs (Andrew Harris, Brady Oliveira and Johnny Augustine) achieved 100-plus yards on the ground at some point in the season, in part thanks to the holes opened up by the offensive line.
Bryant nearly won the award unanimously, with only four of 54 voters not giving their first-place selection to him.
And the man at the helm of the club, O’Shea, won his first Annis Stukus award as Coach of the Year — the first Bomber head coach to do so in two decades.
He was an overwhelming winner after his club went 11-3 during the regular season, losing only one meaningful game before a pair of season-ending losses in which the Bombers were resting several starters.
That record is good for the club’s best winning percentage (.786) in 59 seasons.
O’Shea received 47 first-place votes. He becomes the sixth Bombers coach to take home the award.
He was presented with the award by a pair of legendary Canadian broadcasters who recently announced their retirements – Bob Irving and Brian Williams.
The Bombers may have won the majority of the hardware, but others around the league were also honoured at Friday’s awards show.
BC Lions linebacker Bo Lokombo won the league’s Most Outstanding Canadian award with 50 of 54 first-place votes.His teammate Jordan Williams, the first-round pick in the 2020 draft, won the Most Outstanding Rookie award.
DeVonte Dedmon was the league’s Most Outstanding Special Teams Player award for the Ottawa Redblacks.
The CFL also honoured Hamilton nurse Sara May for outstanding contributions to the league with the Commissioner’s Award.
CFL chief medical officers, doctors Dhiren Naidu and Bob McCormack, were chosen by commissioner Randy Ambrosie as winners of the Hugh Campbell Distinguished Leadership Award.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats offensive lineman Chris Van Zeyl won the Jake Gaudaur Veterans’ Award for demonstrating the attributes of Canada’s veterans, coming back from a pair of injuries during his age-38 season to return to top form.
Carol Longmuir of the BC Lions won the Jane Mawby Tribute Award, given to highly valued, yet too often unsung current employees at the club or league level.
The awards continue the buildup towards Sunday’s Grey Cup game between the Bombers and Ticats.
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