Canadian Football League

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Canadian Football League Award Finalists

Damon Allen says he's living proof good things do come to those who wait.
The Toronto Argonauts quarterback was named the East Division nominee for the CFL's outstanding player award Wednesday. Four times Allen, the CFL's career passing leader, had been voted as a team representative for the honour but this marks the first time in his illustrious 21-year career that the six-foot, 190-pound Allen has been named a finalist for the league's top individual prize.
"It's never too late, that has always been my motto," Allen said. "When it does come, it's always the perfect time.
"But it is truly a team award because you need great personnel and these guys here have made me look good. With that in mind I do accept this nomination for my teammates."
This is quickly becoming year of firsts for Allen.
The 42-year-old grandfather threw for 5,082 yards this season - the first 5,000-yard effort of his career - in leading the defending Grey Cup-champion Argos to first in the East Division. It's also the first time since 1997 that Toronto has captured top spot in the conference.
The West Division nominee is Corey Holmes, the Saskatchewan Roughriders dynamo who is arguably the CFL's most versatile player with his ability to effectively play running back and receiver in addition to being one of the league's top kick returners.
The five-foot-eight, 189-pound Holmes led the CFL in all-purpose yards this season with 3,455 yards. He finished ninth in rushing with 899 yards (with a sparkling 6.5-yard average per carry) and was second in both punt returns (835 yards, two touchdowns) and kickoff returns (1,157 yards, one touchdown).
Not surprisingly, Holmes was also nominated for the John Agro award as the league's top special-teams player, along with Toronto punter-kicker Noel Prefontaine, who was second in the CFL in punting (45.2-yard average) and third in scoring (160 points).
But even the always classy Holmes said Allen has his vote for the outstanding player award.
"He's playing like he's 22 years old and he has my vote to win," Holmes said. "It's just a great honour for me to be in the same category and same sentence with this guy.
"Throughout this league he has been consistent . . . his career is just skyrocketing as he gets older and that's the way I feel I want to approach the game as I get older."
Allen and Prefontaine were among four Argos to earn East Division nominations. The others were linebackers Michael Fletcher (defensive player) and Kevin Eiben (Canadian). Fletcher had 87 tackles this season, second on the team to Eiben, of Delta, B.C., who had 113 to finish tied for first overall with Calgary's George White.
Scott Flory (top lineman) and defensive back Matthieu Proulx (rookie), both of the Montreal Alouettes, were the other East nominees.
The West Division features two repeat nominees in Calgary linebacker John Grace (defensive player) and Saskatchewan's Gene Makowsky (lineman). Grace was a finalist to Montreal's Anwar Stewart last year while Makowsky claimed the top lineman honour.
Defensive end Brent Johnson of the B.C. Lions, a native of Kingston, Ont., who had a CFL-high 16 sacks, is the West's top Canadian candidate while Winnipeg defensive end Gavin Walls, who had 12 sacks, earned the top rookie nomination.
Voting was conducted by the Football Reporters of Canada. The award winners will be named Nov. 24 in Vancouver.
Allen has no intention of slowing down anytime soon, saying he could see himself playing another two years. Allen needs just 1,232 more yards to surpass former NFL-CFL star Warren Moon (70,553 yards) as pro football's most prolific passer ever.
"I think I'm in my prime now," he said.
Fletcher is the first Argo to be a finalist for top defensive player since Zac Henderson in 1982. And the last Toronto player to win the award was Granville Liggins in 1976.
"Wow, I didn't know that. I was just five years old," Fletcher said when told of Henderson's nomination 23 years ago. "There have been a lot of terrific defensive players to wear the double blue since then.
"John (Grace) is a great player in his own right and I wouldn't be disappointed if he won the award because he had a terrific year and has had a great career since coming here."
Flory paid tribute to his teammates along Montreal's offensive line upon receiving his nomination.
"It's a nice award, but it truly is an O-line award," Flory said. "It's a reflection of the guys I play with.
"These guys are all outstanding players and to have three former winners (Uzooma Okeke, Dave Mudge and Bryan Chiu) on the line is amazing."
Proulx was surprised by his nomination.
"Honestly, I didn't expect it," he said. "I was happy to be rookie of the year here for the Alouettes, but I know that there's good rookies on other teams too. This is just a bonus."
The six-foot-three, 300-pound Makowsky anchored an offensive line that surrendered a league-low 23 sacks and helped the Roughriders average a league-best 135 yards rushing per game.


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