Canadian Football League

Friday, November 25, 2005

Canadian Football League Award Winners

It was a long time coming for Damon Allen.
The quarterback who holds most of the CFL's career passing records over an illustrious 21-year career captured the league's outstanding player award for the first time Thursday night at the Vancouver Centre for Performing Arts.
''It's not a bad consolation prize for not being in the Grey Cup,'' Allen said. ''I'm humbled because there are so many great players in our league and yet there's just one award.
''But it's still nice to win it in your prime.''
Allen was a runaway winner in voting conducted by the Football Reporters of Canada, claiming 59 of 62 ballots.

The finalist was versatile Corey Holmes of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who saw action this season returning kicks and punts as well as in the backfield. Holmes did earn the John Agro award as the CFL's top special teams player for the second time.
''Just to have my name mentioned with Damon's is a tremendous honour,'' Holmes said. ''The right man was chosen.
''I think he should've won it long before this.''
Allen also received the Rogers fan choice award.
The other award recipients were B.C. Lions defensive end Brent Johnson (top Canadian), Calgary Stampeders linebacker John Grace (defensive player), Saskatchewan tackle Gene Makowsky (lineman), Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive end Gavin Walls (rookie) and Hamilton Tiger-Cats quarterback Danny McManus (Tom Pate award for community service).
CFL commissioner Tom Wright presented the commissioner's award to The Water Boys, a Vancouver-based group founded in 2003 to promote both the B.C. Lions and CFL in the community.
Allen, 42, was the CFL's feel-good story this season.
At an age when most pro athletes have retired, Allen was instrumental in leading Toronto (11-7) atop the East Division for the first time since 1997. The six-foot-one, 195-pound quarterback threw for a career-high 5,082 yards and his 33 touchdown passes were second only to Montreal's Anthony Calvillo (34), who attempted 112 more passes.
But Montreal ended Allen's dream season, downing Toronto 33-17 in the East Division final. The Alouettes meet the Edmonton Eskimos in the Grey Cup on Sunday (CBC, 6 p.m. ET).
Allen says he will play at least one more season after Toronto picked up the option on his contract.
''I'm just thankful I didn't retire last year, otherwise I wouldn't be standing here,'' Allen said. ''I'm thankful I went to an organization that believes I can play beyond my 20th year, or possibly 25 years.
''Who knows?''
What made Allen so dangerous this season was his ability to feel the rush. Allen, the CFL's top-rushing quarterback with over 11,000 yards, still showed plenty of zip in his legs, running for 461 yards and averaging over five yards per carry.
But Allen often showed the patience of a poised veteran, running laterally to buy his receivers more time to either break off their routes or get open downfield.
Johnson, of Kingston, Ont., narrowly claimed the top Canadian award 37-35 over Toronto linebacker Kevin Eiben, of Delta, B.C., a finalist for the second straight year. Johnson had a breakout season, posting a CFL-high 16 sacks. He displayed the power to beat his block head-on, or use his speed to run around the tackle, then reel the quarterback in.
''I don't know how you make a choice here,'' Johnson said modestly. ''Kevin Eiben could be holding this trophy and should be and I'm sure will one day.
''It's great to be acknowledged but there's also pressure now. The guys before me who won this set a standard and now I have to live up to that.''
The second time was the charm for Grace, who claimed the defensive player award over Toronto linebacker Michael Fletcher with 39 votes. Grace was a finalist last year to Montreal's Anwar Stewart.
Grace finished as Calgary's No. 2 tackler with 76 (George White had 113) but is regarded as the spiritual leader of the Stampeders' defence. He added eight sacks, three fumble recoveries and two interceptions.
But Grace said the award doesn't eliminate the disappointment he's still feeling after Edmonton's 33-26 win over Calgary in the West semifinal.
''Awards are wonderful, heck I'm still shaking,'' he said. ''But it's all about winning games and championships and that disappointment is still with me and is what's going to push me in the off-season.''
Makowsky earned his second straight lineman award by a narrow 33-29 verdict over Montreal Alouettes guard Scott Flory, a former University of Saskatchewan teammate.
Makowsky helped Saskatchewan lead the CFL in rushing, averaging 135.5 yards per game. The Roughriders also allowed five less sacks than they did in 2004.
''It's unexpected but a great honour because there are many great linemen in this league,'' Makowsky said. ''You've got to be big and strong to be a good lineman and also be very smart.
''It's not your stereotype of the big, dumb football player. It's a very cerebral position.''
Holmes captured the special-teams honour over Toronto punter-kicker Noel Prefontaine with 55 votes. Holmes finished first in all-purpose yards (3,455) and was second in both punt returns (55 for 835 yards, two touchdowns) and kickoff returns (43 for 1,157 yards, one TD).
Walls was the top rookie by a 56-6 margin over Montreal defensive back Matthieu Proulx. Walls finished tied for second in the CFL with 12 sacks and might have contended for the defensive player award if not for a late-season injury.
''I was star-stuck there for a minute but this is a great honour,'' said Walls. ''The CFL is bigger than a lot of people think.''


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