It’s a scene the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and their faithful have excitedly witnessed on repeat over the last few seasons.
And yet, no matter how often it unfolds, the sight of a Blue Bombers player taking the stage to make an acceptance speech at the Canadian Football League’s Most Outstanding Player awards during Grey Cup week simply never gets old.
The CFL announced the West and East Division nominees for the league’s most prestigious individual honours – along with the Coach of the Year finalists – and the Blue Bombers, once again, will have a healthy contingent present. Quarterback Zach Collaros (Most Outstanding Player), left tackle Stanley Bryant (Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman) and receiver Dalton Schoen (Most Outstanding Rookie) will all represent the West, as will Mike O’Shea for Coach of the Year.
The trio of West Division Most Outstanding Player nominations marks the fourth straight season three Blue Bombers have been finalists, while O’Shea was also named the Coach of the Year last season.
Dating back to 2016, at least one Blue Bomber has won a CFL Most Outstanding Player award each year – Justin Medlock (special teams, 2016); Bryant (offensive lineman) and Andrew Harris (Canadian in 2017); Adam Bighill (defensive) and Bryant (offensive lineman) in 2018, Willie Jefferson (defensive) in 2019, with Collaros (outstanding), Bryant (offensive lineman), Bighill (defence) and O’Shea (coach of the year) all saluted last December in Hamilton.
The mission now for the 2022 edition of the Blue Bombers is simple: to ensure Collaros, Bryant, Schoen and O’Shea aren’t alone in Regina in just over two weeks, and that the entire team is present and then playing in the 109th Grey Cup on the ensuing Sunday.
Here is a look at the three Blue Bombers named as finalists for the CFL Most Outstanding Player Awards and Mike O’Shea for Coach of the Year, with the league honours to be presented on November 17th during Grey Cup week in Regina:
MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER: Zach Collaros
His 2022 numbers: Collaros set career best numbers in passing yards (4,183) and TDs (37), with the latter being the highest total in the CFL this season and the second highest to the 46 Khari Jones threw for in 2002 in Blue Bombers history.
Collaros had a touchdown-to-interception-ratio of 37:13 – or +24 – which is tied for the ninth highest in CFL history (Montreal’s Anthony Cavillio was +30 in 2008) and established a new Blue Bombers record, eclipsing the +23 ratio Jack Jacobs posted in 1951.
The Blue Bombers are now a remarkable 32-4 in games Collaros has started since his arrival at the trade deadline in October of 2019 – including back-to-back Grey Cup championships – making him just the second pivot in franchise history to lead the team to consecutive titles after Ken Ploen first accomplished the feat in 1961-62.
FYI: Collaros is the front runner to be named the league’s Most Outstanding Player for a second straight year. That would be a first in the CFL since Calvillo captured the award in 2008 and 2009. The only Blue Bomber to win the MOP in consecutive seasons was QB Dieter Brock in 1980 and 1981.
East Division nominee: Eugene Lewis, WR, Montreal Alouettes
MOST OUTSTANDING OFFENSIVE LINEMAN: Stanley Bryant
Position: Left tackle
His 2022 numbers: We’ve just come to expect that the left flank will be locked down because of Bryant, who is a six-time winner of the Blue Bombers Most Outstanding Player Award. Winnipeg finished second in sacks allowed in ’22 and the offence ranked first in touchdowns and passing touchdowns and second in points scored.
FYI: Bryant has won this award three times – in 2017, 2018 and 2021 – and was the runner-up to Hamilton’s Chris Van Zeyl in 2019, falling short by just two votes. No player in the has won this award more dating back to 1974 when the CFL split its Most Outstanding Lineman Award into two categories – Most Outstanding Defensive Player and Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman.
Chris Walby won this award twice in 1987 and 1993 as a member of the Bombers and finished as the runner-up twice, in 1990 and 1991.
East Division nominee: Brandon Revenberg, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
MOST OUTSTANDING ROOKIE PLAYER: Dalton Schoen
His 2022 numbers: Schoen led the league in receiving yardage with 1,441 yards on 70 receptions and tired for first in touchdowns with 16 along with Caleb Evans of the Ottawa RedBlacks.
Schoen also led the CFL in second-down conversion catches, with a remarkable 41 of his 70 catches keeping the offence on the field. He has also had five 100-yard receiving games this season. His 1,441 receiving yards was the most by a Blue Bomber since Milt Stegall had 1,896 yards in 2002, the year he was the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player. It also ranks as the seventh-highest total in Blue Bombers history with only Stegall (1,896 in ’02; 1,616 in ’97 and 1,499 in ‘00), James Murphy (1,746 in ’86), Gerald Wilcox (1,624 in ’94) and Eugene Goodlow (1,494 in ’81) having registered more.
FYI: The last Blue Bomber to win top rookie was also a receiver, with Chis Matthews saluted in 2012. The other Blue Bombers to grab league honours were defensive end Gavin Walls (2005), receiver/returner Albert Johnson III (2000), running back Michael Richardson (1992), running back William Miller (1980) and receiver Joe Poplawski (1978).
Interestingly, O’Shea was also a winner of this award in 1993 as a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
East Division nominee: Tyson Philpot, WR, Montreal Alouettes
COACH OF THE YEAR: Mike O’Shea
2022: The Blue Bombers boss helped guide the Blue Bombers to a franchise-best 15 wins this season and a first-place finish in the West Division for a second straight year. O’Shea now has an 82-58 record as the Blue Bombers head coach since joining the club in 2014, with the 82 victories second-most in franchise history to Bud Grant (102) and Cal Murphy (86).
The Blue Bombers have consistently been one of the least-penalized teams in the CFL under O’Shea’s watch and are chasing a third consecutive Grey Cup championship after winning in 2019 and 2021. Winnipeg is also a remarkable 28-2 in its last 30 games at IG Field, including last year’s Western Final playoff win.
FYI: Murphy is the only Blue Bombers coach to win the honours in consecutive seasons, back in 1983-84. The other Blue Bombers coaches to be honoured dating back to 1961 — besides O’Shea — were Dave Ritchie (2001), Mike Riley (1988 and 1990) and Grant (1965).
East Division nominee: Ryan Dinwiddie, Toronto Argonauts
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