League’s biggest stars light up Shaw CFL Awards

EDMONTON — On a night when the league’s biggest stars were celebrated at the Shaw CFL Awards, Bo Levi Mitchell emerged with the league’s top honours for the second time in his career as he was named 2018’s Most Outstanding Player.

“I think the first one, people are rooting for you, in your corner,” said Mitchell. “Everybody wants to see change and new faces. When guys are repeat winners it becomes that much harder to win and that much harder to get somebody to vote. The second one is amazing and hopefully there’s more to come.

“What makes it sweeter, it’s the guys I have in the locker-room. We’re such a tight-knit group. Everyone talks about the injuries instead of the body of work we’ve put in together. I want to raise those guys up and say they’re the best receiving core in the league, and no one can tell me differently. This goes out to them.”

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Ottawa REDBLACKS and Saskatchewan Roughriders split the other awards in a star-studded evening recognizing the accomplishments of players across the league. The Shaw CFL Awards, hosted by TSN’s James Duthie and Natasha Staniszewski, took place at the Winspear Centre on Thursday night as part of the festivities for the 106th Grey Cup presented by Shaw.

The Commissioner’s Award, recognizing an individual or group for outstanding contributions to the league, was awarded by Commissioner Ambrosie to former player, current RDS analyst and chief of all things football in Quebec, Pierre Vercheval.

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The Hugh Campbell Distinguished Leadership Award, chosen by the Commissioner of the CFL to recognize an individual who has demonstrated great leadership and made significant contributions to the league, was awarded to the CFL’s all-time winningest coach, Wally Buono.

The CFLPA announced Ryan King as the 2018 recipient of the Tom Pate Memorial Award, given to a player who has made a significant contribution to his team, his community and Association to celebrate outstanding sportsmanship.

BC Lions fullback Rolly Lumbala received the Jake Gaudaur Veterans’ Award in recognition of his courage, perseverance, strength and service to his community.

The winners of the Shaw CFL Awards were selected by a panel of voters which included representation from the Football Reporters of Canada from all nine CFL markets, the national chapter of FRC voters and the head coaches of the CFL. In total, 60 voters completed their ballots.

This year’s winners are listed below: 

Most Outstanding Player  Bo Levi Mitchell
Coach of the Year Chris Jones
Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman Stanley Bryant
Most Outstanding Defensive Player Adam Bighill
Most Outstanding Special Teams Player Lewis Ward
Most Outstanding Rookie Lewis Ward
Most Outstanding Canadian Brad Sinopoli
Commissioner’s Award Pierre Vercheval
Jake Gaudaur Veterans’ Award Rolly Lumbala
Tom Pate Memorial Award Ryan King
Hugh Campbell Distinguished Leadership Award Wally Buono

Most Outstanding Player: Bo Levi Mitchell


After passing for 5,000-plus yards and recording a career high in passing touchdowns with 35, Bo Levi Mitchell won his second career Most Outstanding Player award Thursday night.

Mitchell’s 2018 campaign saw him lead his team to a CFL-best 13 wins to claim the West Division. The Katy, Texas native passed for 5,124 yards while completing 60.9 per cent of his passes. He also led the league for most 30-plus yard completions with 42 and had the best touchdown-to-interception ratio with 2.5.

The 28-year-old wins the coveted award for the second time in his career, with his first honour coming in 2015. It marks the 11th time a Calgary player took home the award, making him the eighth individual player to do so from the Stampeders and the second to win multiple.

Mitchell becomes the ninth CFL player to win the honour multiple times and is the second-youngest to win more than one, trailing only Jackie Parker who won his second at age 26 in 1958.

This was the third time in Mitchell’s career he has been nominated for the award, totaling three nominations in the last four years.

Mitchell received 47 first-place votes, edging Ticats quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.

Most Outstanding Canadian: Brad Sinopoli


Peterborough, Ont. native and Ottawa REDBLACKS receiver Brad Sinopoli set a new single-season Canadian reception record en route to winning his second Most Outstanding Canadian award.

The former Ottawa Gee-Gee led the CFL with 116 receptions for 1,376 yards and scored four touchdowns this season to help the REDBLACKS win the East Division. Sinopoli’s 1,376 receiving yards was the third-highest in the CFL this season, marking the fourth consecutive season he reached 1,000 receiving yards.

“It’s a great experience,” said Sinopoli. “I’ve loved the CFL since before I can remember. I’ve watched a lot of Canadian players go through and it’s an honour to be here.”

Sinopoli’s path has been anything but linear. He started as a quarterback with the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees. Running out of options, he made a seamless transition to receiver, eventually emerging as the CFL’s top Canadian receiver.

“I think anytime you’re given an opportunity, it’s rare,” he said.” When you’re given a second opportunity, it’s even more rare. The second time when I came back, I tried not to take the days for granted. Just one day at a time was kind of my motto. One catch at a time – get up and try to do it again.”

“I was not an every-down guy when I made the switch,” he added. “I tried to make every play count instead of counting my plays, and usually just try to build off of that.”

Sinopoli surpassed Ben Cahoon, who set the previous record for Canadian receptions with 112 in 2003. He also led the league with 486 yards after the catch and was second in the league with 36 second down conversion catches.

This is the second time Sinopoli has taken home the honour (the first came in 2015) and his third time being a finalist. It also marks the second time he has squared off with Andrew Harris for the award.

The last Ottawa player before Brad Sinopoli to win this award was Tony Gabriel (1978).

The receiver finished with 32 first-place votes, barely edging Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back Andrew Harris.

Coach of the Year: Chris Jones


Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach Chris Jones takes home his first Annis Stukus Award for CFL Coach of the Year.

In his third season with the Roughriders, Jones led his team to their first home playoff game since 2013 and help build a defence that scored the most touchdowns in franchise history (11), led the league in opposing net offence (an average of 317.5 yards per game), forced the most two-and-outs (107), and tied for fewest sacks allowed.

“We’ve got good people. That’s first and foremost,” said Jones. “All of our coaches, I can’t begin to tell you – they’re like my family when I’m away from my family. They’re like brothers – we all fight like brothers, but as soon as we get out of that room – we’re together. We’ve got great players. We work ‘em. They lift like twice a week. They put the work in. That’s what it is – you’ve got good people around you.”

Coach Jones led the Roughriders to 12 victories this season, matching the most since 1970.

Jones becomes the first Rider to win the Annis Stukus Award since 2013 when Corey Chamblin won. He is the fifth Roughriders coach to win the award, joining Chamblin (2013), Kent Austin (2007), John Gregory (1989), Joe Faragalli (1981) and Eagle Keys (1968).

Jones recorded 41 first-place votes.

Hugh Campbell Distinguished Leadership Award: Wally Buono

In his last year coaching in the CFL, Wally Buono was honoured with the Hugh Campbell Award (David Chidley/CFL.ca)

Living legend Wally Buono has been awarded the Canadian Football League’s (CFL) Hugh Campbell Distinguished Leadership Award.

“This is presented each year to an individual who has demonstrated great leadership and made significant contributions to the CFL,” said Randy Ambrosie, the league’s Commissioner.

“In the case of this year’s honouree, that description amounts to a massive understatement. It is difficult to think of someone who has contributed or achieved more in our league than Wally Buono. It’s almost impossible to imagine what life in the CFL will be like without him.”

Living legend Wally Buono has been awarded the Canadian Football League’s (CFL) Hugh Campbell Distinguished Leadership Award.

“This is presented each year to an individual who has demonstrated great leadership and made significant contributions to the CFL,” said Randy Ambrosie, the league’s Commissioner.

“In the case of this year’s honouree, that description amounts to a massive understatement. It is difficult to think of someone who has contributed or achieved more in our league than Wally Buono. It’s almost impossible to imagine what life in the CFL will be like without him.”

Buono, 68, is retiring after a remarkable 46-year career as a standout player, the league’s winningest Coach, a respected General Manager and a valued league Governor.

He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014 and invested as a member of the Order of Canada in 2015.

“You have to have had a tremendous passion for what you’re doing,” said Buono of his career success. “My wife asked me what I would do if I wasn’t doing football. I said I really don’t know. She said when you retire, what are you going to do? I said I really don’t know. Football has been something that I’ve really – really enjoyed.”

Buono leaves having won two Grey Cups (in five appearances) as a player and five Grey Cups (in nine appearances) as a Head Coach. His overall coaching regular season coaching record is a remarkable 282-165-3.

But Ambrosie said he wanted to emphasize something that is almost impossible to tally: the impact Buono has had on the lives of countless players, coaching colleagues, CFL and club personnel and fans and media members.

“What matters most in person’s life is the impact you have on others,” Ambrosie told the Shaw CFL Awards audience, which included hundreds of people who had played or coached for, with or against Buono as well as his proud family.

“This is a person who has touched thousands and thousands of lives and made each of them better.”

Buono has always talked about football in the context of life, Ambrosie added, and now everyone in the CFL wishes him and his wife Sande, his children Amy, Dayna, Christie and Michael, and their entire family all the best as he embarks on a full and happy life after football.

Commissioner’s Award: Pierre Vercheval

RDS broadcaster and former CFLer Pierre Vercheval was honoured with the Commissioner’s Award (David Chidley/CFL.ca)

A former top lineman in Canadian university football, Vercheval played 14 years in the CFL with Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal, earning recognition as an all-star and the league’s Most Outstanding Lineman as well as induction into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

“In his 17 years at RDS, this consummate professional has applied the same passion for preparation, attention to detail and commitment to excellence which made him a great player to his work as a broadcaster,” Ambrosie said.

“As a result, and over the years, he has become to francophone fans our game’s ultimate storyteller, its voice and its face.”

Past winners of the Commissioner’s Award include Wally Buono, Ron Lancaster and Bernie Custis. It is presented annually by the Commissioner of the CFL to an individual or individuals who have demonstrated dedication and made a significant contribution to Canadian football.

“Pierre’s career has coincided with and contributed to an important period for football in Quebec, one which has seen the Alouettes’ return to la belle province and tremendous growth in the number of young francophones playing the game,” Ambrosie said.

The highly respected voice of professional football in Quebec, RDS Broadcaster Pierre Vercheval is the recipient of this year’s Commissioner’s Award.

“They call him, simply, Monsieur Football,” said Randy Ambrosie, Commissioner of the Canadian Football League.

“Pierre has been both football expert and master translator, updating the lexicon so it really brings home the nuances of Canadian football as the game evolves, and communicating in a way that takes fans inside the huddle.”

Tom Pate Memorial Award: Ryan King

Ryan King was named the Tom Pate Award winner on Thursday night in Edmonton (David Chidley/CFL.ca)

The CFLPA is proud to announce Ryan King of the Edmonton Eskimos as the 2018 Tom Pate Award recipient.

In 2018, Ryan has worked as hard off the field as he has on it, devoting his time within the Edmonton community. In 2017 he began working with KidSport Edmonton as an ambassador/partner, to create ‘King’s Kids’ – a program that offers Eskimos’ gameday experiences to vulnerable teens from the Edmonton area. Ryan has also teamed up with teammate Calvin McCarty to offer non-competitive sports programs for kids at every stage through their joint-collaboration ‘King McCarty Camps’.

At each Grey Cup, the Canadian Football League Players’ Association has the honour of presenting the Tom Pate Award. It is an award presented not just for one’s ability to perform on the field, but rather it is an award given to a player who also displays qualities that distinguish them from their peers off the field as well.

Tom Pate had a unique combination of outstanding sportsmanship, dedication and sense of community. He was educated at the University of Nebraska where he majored in business administration while playing for the Cornhuskers. He joined the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1975 and as a rookie played 14 regular season games. In October 1975, his life was abruptly ended, when in his fourteenth game against the Stampeders in Calgary, he suffered an aneurysm in the fourth quarter. Pate, only 23 at the time, never regained consciousness and passed away just two days later.

Each year, the current CFLPA membership across the league selects a teammate to be nominated for this award and represent their respective team. The recipient embodies the qualities that distinguished Tom Pate; qualities that recognize a Player with outstanding sportsmanship, a Player who has made a contribution to his team as well as to his community and to his Association. From the nine team nominees, one individual member is selected to receive the honour of being awarded the winner of the Tom Pate Award for that season.

Jake Gaudaur Veterans’ Award: Rolly Lumbala

Rolly Lumbala was named the Jake Gaudaur Award winner on Thursday in Edmonton (The Canadian Press)

In recognition of his perseverance, comradeship and service to his community, the Canadian Football League (CFL) and Veterans’ Affairs Canada have named BC Lion Rolly Lumbala the recipient of this year’s Jake Gaudaur Veterans’ Award.

The award was presented by Bernard Butler, Assistant Deputy Minister, Veterans’ Affairs Canada; Tracy Porteous, Executive Director of the Ending Violence Association of BC; and Jackie Gaudaur, daughter of the late Jack Gaudaur, as part of the Shaw CFL Awards in Edmonton.

Rolly Lumbala, this year’s recipient, played 17 games this season at fullback, working hard and applying his strength and work ethic to a physical game while taking the time to mentor his younger teammates. The 11-year CFL veteran, who has spent his entire career with the BC Lions spends many days working at Husky House, a local foster home for at-risk youth. He’s been a pillar in the Lions’ Be More Than A Bystander anti-violence against women initiative and a key figure in the Lions’ Read, Write & Roar program, Lions Pride, and Lions in the House, among other initiatives.

This year was a difficult one for Rolly, who served as his father Eugene’s primary caregiver during his father’s battle with cancer. Sadly, Eugene passed away on Sept. 5; Rolly has demonstrated immense perseverance and selflessness in continuing to dedicate his time and passion to his teammates and community.

“Congratulations to Rolly Lumbala on winning the Jake Gaudaur Veterans’ Award. Just like Canada’s Veterans, you’ve demonstrated great strength, perseverance and comradeship and have made an outstanding commitment to British Columbia, making you a deserving recipient of this award.”

Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence

“We are very proud to celebrate Rolly and the remarkable work he does to improve the lives of others. His quiet leadership, selflessness, and commitment to his team and his community are truly commendable. Our league is made stronger by the courage and heart of people like Rolly, and we are honoured to salute the service of our veterans as we recognize Rolly.”

Randy Ambrosie, Commissioner, Canadian Football League

Named after Jake Gaudaur, the CFL’s longest serving commissioner and distinguished Second World War Veteran, this award is presented annually to a Canadian CFL player who best demonstrates the attributes of Canadian Veterans in times of war, military conflict, and peace. A Canadian fighter pilot instructor during the Second World War, Gaudaur won Grey Cups as both a player and an executive before serving as commissioner of the CFL from 1968 to 1984.

The CFL is committed to honouring the contributions and selfless service of Canada’s veterans, to celebrating still-serving members, and remembering those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Most Outstanding Defensive Player: Adam Bighill


In his first year with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers,  linebacker Adam Bighill was named the Most Outstanding Defensive Player for the second time in his career.

Bighill recorded 105 tackles while adding four sacks, two interceptions and four forced fumbles (making him the league leader) to help the Blue Bombers clinch a playoff berth. His 127 defensive plays were the third-most in the league this season.

“For me, it’s just about getting back to playing football like I’ve done before, and – you know – getting used to being around new teammates, a new coaching staff, new way of doing things and building new chemistry,” said Bighill. “It was just a fun year for me – sharing that with my teammates.”

A key part of the Winnipeg defence, Bighill led a defence that finished tied for first with 49 takeaways, second in points allowed (23.3 points per game) and tied for the second-fewest yards allowed per play (6.0). They also ended the season with a turnover ratio of plus-13.

This is the Montesano, Wash. native’s second Most Outstanding Defensive Player award in his career, his first coming in 2015 with the BC Lions. It marks the fifth time a Blue Bomber has won the award, the first since Jovon Johnson won in 2011. The other Blue Bombers to win the award include Greg Battle (1991 and 1990) and Tyrone Jones (1985).

Bighill becomes the ninth player to win Most Outstanding Defensive Player on multiple occasions since it was first awarded in 1974.

Bighill received 57 first-place votes, beating out Ticats linebacker Larry Dean.

Nissan Titan Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman: Stanley Bryant


In his fourth season with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Stanley Bryant has won back-to-back honours as the Nissan Titan Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman – the first to do so since Scott Flory in 2008 and 2009.

“It’s just a great feeling,” said Bryant. “A lot of offensive linemen don’t get the respect – or exposure – unless they’ve something bad has happened. In Winnipeg, it’s a group effort – all five of us have to be on the same page to get the job done. I’m part of one of the best groups in the CFL. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers – we’ve grown together and have just got better and better each year.”

The Goldsboro, N.C. native anchored the line that helped Winnipeg’s running back win the rushing title, and was a crucial piece of an offence that scored the most offensive touchdowns (53) and tied for third for fewest sacks allowed (36).

Bryant become the eighth lineman and first Winnipeg player to win the award in consecutive seasons.

“Congratulations to Stanley Bryant for winning the 2017 Nissan TITAN Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman of the Year Award,” said Steve Rhind, director of marketing, Nissan Canada Inc. “In partnership with the CFL, Nissan Canada is proud to recognize the CFL’s offensive linemen for their performance and dedication, and is thrilled to present this year’s award to Stanley for his contribution to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.”

The East Carolina standout received 44 first-place votes, getting the nod over Ticats guard Brandon Revenberg.

Most Outstanding Rookie and Special Teams Player: Lewis Ward


Ottawa REDBLACKS kicker Lewis Ward continued an unforgettable first season in the CFL, capturing Most Outstanding Rookie and Most Outstanding Special Teams honours.

Lewis Ward went a remarkable 51 for 52 (98.1%) on field goal attempts, setting a single-season CFL record (former record was 94.7% by Rene Paredes) and in the process setting the all-time record for most consecutive made field goals with 48, a streak that will continue into 2019.

For an undrafted player, Ward made the most of a tryout with the REDBLACKS before the season.

“Not being drafted, there’s a lot that goes with making a football team,” said Ward. “The easy way doesn’t always last the longest. You’ve got to put the work in. You’ve got to do the hard work that it takes, and it might not always be as soon as you want it to, but if you keep working at it then it’ll happen in the end. I’m satisfied with how things have turned out.”

The Kingston, Ont. native scored 169 points for the REDBLACKS this season. Ward also becomes the first Ottawa player to win the Most Outstanding Rookie since 1990 when Reggie Barnes won the award. Other Ottawa players to win the award include Orville Lee (1988), Chris Isaac (1982) and Tom Clements (1975).

He’s the seventh Canadian to win the award since it was established in 1972.

Ward earned 50 first-place votes for Most Outstanding Rookie, beating out Riders receiver Jordan Williams-Lambert. He topped Lions kicker Ty Long for the special teams honour.