CALGARY — After dominating the 2019 regular season, Brandon Banks and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats monopolized the CFL awards banquet Thursday night.
The electrifying Banks was named the CFL’s outstanding player 41-9 in voting by the Football Reporters of Canada and nine league head coaches. Banks was joined on the podium by teammates Chris Van Zeyl (lineman), Frankie Williams (special-teams) and Orlondo Steinauer (coach) as East nominees took five of the top seven individual honours.
Montreal Alouettes linebacker Henoc Muamba (Canadian) was the other East Division winner. End Willie Jefferson of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (defensive player) and Calgary Stampeders linebacker Nate Holley (rookie) were the West Division recipients.
CFL board chairman Jim Lawson confirmed upon receiving the Commissioner’s award from Randy Ambrosie he’ll be retiring after the Grey Cup game Sunday. Lawson was appointed CFL board chairman in 2013 and twice served as interim commissioner.
Calgary president/GM John Hufnagel received the Hugh Campbell Distinguished Leadership award. Hufnagel was a former CFL player, offensive co-ordinator, head coach and GM before adding the president’s role to his impressive Stampeders resume.
Ross Folan, Calgary’s video operations director, received the inaugural Jane Mawby Tribute award. Mawby spent 28 seasons with the Stampeders before passing away in 2015.
Calgary punter Rob Maver captured the Tom Pate Memorial award for outstanding community service and sportsmanship.
Alouettes long-snapper Martin Bedard captured the Jake Gaudaur Veterans’ award. It’s given annually to the CFL player who embodies the attributes of Canada’s veterans.
Banks, 31, led the CFL in receiving this season with a club-record 112 catches for 1,550 yards and 13 TDs. The five-foot-seven, 150-pound dynamo also ran 13 times for 56 yards and a TD, returned 13 punts for 140 yards, and five missed field goals for 283 yards (56.6-yard average) and two TDs.
Banks becomes the first Ticat to win the award since quarterback Danny McManus in 1998. He’ll lead Hamilton into the Grey Cup game Sunday against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Cody Fajardo was the award finalist. The first-year starter had career-highs in passing yards (4,302), rushing touchdowns (10) and touchdown passes (18), while completing 71.5 per cent of his attempts.
Fajardo led Saskatchewan (13-5) to top spot in the West Division for the first time since 2009. The native of Brea, Calif., was 12-4 as a starter and had six 300-yard passing performances.
The six-foot, 230-pound Muamba, a native of Zaire who grew up in Mississauga, Ont., received 34 votes for top Canadian. He second in the CFL in tackles with 93 while adding a sack, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery as Montreal (10-8) registered double-digit wins for the first time since 2012 and ended a five-year playoff drought.
Saskatchewan Roughriders linebacker Cameron Judge was the finalist. The 2017 second overall pick from Montreal had 61 tackles, 12 special-teams tackles, five sacks and two interceptions as the Riders finished tied with Edmonton for most sacks (56) and led the CFL in lowest opponent net offence (294.4 yards per game).
Jefferson, 28, received 39 votes for top defensive player after registering a career-high 12 sacks in his first season with Winnipeg. the six-foot-seven, 245-pound player also had a league-record 16 pass knockdowns to go with 24 tackles, an interception, six forced fumbles and two recoveries.
Tiger-Cats linebacker Simoni Lawrence was a finalist for the honour. The eight-year veteran led the CFL with a career-high 98 tackles with three interceptions, four sacks and seven pass knockdowns.
The six-foot-six, 312-pound Van Zeyl captured 26 votes to secure the top lineman honour for the first time in his CFL career. The 36-year-old native of Fonthill, Ont., anchored an offensive line that helped Hamilton lead the CFL in passing yards (5,626), touchdowns (48) and net offence (395.1 yards per game).
Winnipeg tackle Stanley Bryant was the finalist after winning the honour the previous two seasons. The six-foot-five, 313-pound native of Goldsboro, N.C., helped Winnipeg lead the CFL in rushing (147.9 yards per game) and pave the way for running back Andrew Harris to claim a third straight league rushing title (1,380 yards).
The five-foot-nine, 190-pound Williams secured 34 votes after leading the CFL in punt return yards (874) and 1,020 kickoff return yards. Williams. 26, of Tampa, Fla., had two special-teams touchdowns this season.
Mike Miller of the Bombers was the award finalist. The native of Riverview, N.B., had 25 special-teams tackles, a league-record seven coming in a 29-14 win over Ottawa on July 5.
The six-foot, 210-pound Holley received 41 votes after recording 78 tackles, 22 special-teams tackles, a sack and an interception with Calgary. Holley, who played at Kent State, finished second in the league with 107 defensive plays.
The finalist was Alouettes receiver Jake Wieneke. The six-foot-four, 215-pound native of Maple Grove, Minn., had 41 catches for 569 yards and a team-high eight TDs.
Steinauer, 46, of Seattle, received 38 votes after leading Hamilton a CFL-best 15-3 record in his first season as head coach. Steinauer tied the league mark for most regular-season wins by a first-year head coach in guiding the Ticats to the best regular season in franchise history.
Saskatchewan’s Craig Dickenson was the finalist. The first-year head coach led the Riders (13-5) to first in the West Division for the first time since ‘09.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press