Fajardo, Banks among team nominees for CFL’s outstanding player award

TORONTO — The CFL’s leading passer and top receiver were unanimous selections for the league’s top individual award.

Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Cody Fajardo and Hamilton Tiger-Cats receiver Brandon Banks were their teams’ selections for the CFL’s outstanding player award Wednesday.

Voting was conducted by the Football Reporters of Canada and nine CFL head coaches.

Fajardo has been a key figure this season for Saskatchewan (12-5), having completed 71.5 per cent of his passes for a league-best 4,302 yards with 18 TDs and eight interceptions. If Fajardo, who began the year as the backup quarterback, can lead his team to victory Saturday against the Edmonton Eskimos, the Riders will finish atop the West Division for the first time since ‘09.

“He’s been outstanding for us, he’s had a great season,” Riders rookie head coach Craig Dickenson said of Fajardo. “He’s certainly our MVP, if you ask me.

“I think he’s done a heck of a lot and would be deserving of consideration for that.”

The fleet-footed Banks — whose nickname is “Speedy B” — has a club-record 112 catches for Hamilton (league-best 14-3 record) with 1,550 yards and 13 TDs. All three are CFL-high numbers.

Also joining Fajardo and Banks as unanimous top player selections were Montreal Alouettes quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. (3,816 passing yards, 22 TDs, with 392 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns) as well as receivers Bryan Burnham (93 catches, 1,401 yards, 10 TDs) of the B.C. Lions and Reggie Begelton (96 receptions, 1,384 yards, 10 TDs) of the Calgary Stampeders. The other nominees include Edmonton quarterback Trevor Harris, Winnipeg defensive lineman Willie Jefferson, Toronto receiver Derel Walker and Ottawa linebacker Avery Williams.

Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was named the CFL’s most outstanding player in 2018. Now, his top target is going for the award.

“I came here for a championship. Individual stats are good, but I’m here for this Grey Cup,” the Lamar University alum said.

“I’m not much of a vocal guy. Honestly, Bo can see it my eyes. When he needs a play, he looks at me and I look at him back and we have that connection like ‘OK, I need you to get this one.’ We don’t have to say much. Actions speak louder than words anyway.”

Begelton suffered a season-ending broken arm in September of 2018 and wasn’t able to play in the 2018 Grey Cup.

“I went into the off-season really early to at least get back to where I was,” Begelton said.

“I made a goal for myself to at least try to get 1,500 yards, 10 touchdowns. It was something I’d never done before. I’d never been over a thousand yards as a receiver at any level and that was one of my biggest goals.”

Jefferson (unanimous as defensive player) and Williams (defensive player) were both double nominees. So too were Toronto’s Cleyon Laing (Canadian, defensive player), Calgary’s Nate Holley (unanimous as special teams, rookie), Winnipeg’s Mike Miller (Canadian, unanimous as special teams), Montreal’s Henoc Muamba (defensive, Canadian) and Ottawa’s Nolan MacMillan (Canadian, lineman).

A notable absentee was Winnipeg running back Andrew Harris, who has run for a CFL-high 1,380 yards and looks to earn a third straight league crown. Harris, the league’s top Canadian in 2017, served a two-game suspension this season following a positive drug test.

Hamilton linebacker Simoni Lawrence (league-high 95 tackles) and Saskatchewan’s Charleston Hughes (CFL-leading 15 sacks) were both nominated for the top defensive player honour. Also selected were Edmonton linebacker Larry Dean (unanimously) and defensive backs T.J. Lee (B.C.) and Tre Roberson (Calgary, unanimous).

Linebackers Cory Greenwood of Calgary and Cameron Judge of Saskatchewan along with B.C. receiver Lemar Durant were unanimous selections as top Canadian. The other nominees included Edmonton’s Kwaku Boateng and Hamilton’s Brandon Revenberg.

Winnipeg’s Stanley Bryant was a unanimous pick as top lineman, an honour he’s received the last two years. Edmonton’s David Beard, Saskatchewan’s Dan Clark and Toronto’s Sean McEwen were also unanimous selections while Joel Figueroa (B.C.), Kristian Matte (Montreal), Shane Bergman (Calgary) and Chris Van Zeyl (Hamilton) were nominated.

The division finalists will be announced Nov. 7. The CFL will honour its top performers Nov. 21 in Calgary.

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