The finalists for last year’s CFL outstanding player award are up for the honour again in 2012.
Quarterbacks Travis Lulay of the B.C. Lions and Anthony Calvillo of the Montreal Alouettes were named their teams’ representatives Wednesday in voting by members of the Football Reporters of Canada and the CFL head coaches.
The division finalists will be announced next Wednesday and the CFL will honour its top individual performers Nov. 22 in Toronto.
Lulay captured the award last year with Calvillo named the East Division’s top player.
The 39-year-old Calvillo is enjoying a banner 2012 campaign. The veteran quarterback — a three-time outstanding player award winner — is leading the league in passing with 5,082 yards, a league-record seventh time he has thrown for over 5,000 yards in a season.
Lulay is third overall in CFL passing with 4,143 yards. He has also thrown 27 TD passes against just 10 interceptions despite missing his last two starts with a shoulder injury. If Lulay returns to the lineup Saturday against Saskatchewan, he will look to extend his streak of 26 straight games with a TD pass.
Lulay will face some stiff competition to earn the West Division nomination for the award as the other three nominees were unanimous selections: Calgary Stampeders running back Jon Cornish; Edmonton Eskimos linebacker J.C. Sherritt; and Saskatchewan Roughriders slotback Weston Dressler.
Cornish, a native of New Westminster, B.C., is the league’s rushing leader with 1,388 yards. He needs just 50 yards in Calgary’s regular-season finale against Edmonton on Friday to surpass Norm Kwong (1,437 yards) as the top-rushing Canadian in a single season.
Cornish is also attempting to become the first Canadian to lead the CFL in rushing since Ottawa’s Orville Lee in 1988.
Sherritt has amassed a CFL-high 119 tackles and needs just 11 to break Calvin Tiggle’s single-season record of 129. Dressler is third among league receivers with 94 catches for 1,206 yards and his 14 TDs is just one behind league leader Chris Williams of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Calvillo also a unanimous selection in the East Division. The other nominees include Williams, Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back Chad Simpson and Toronto Argonauts receiver/kick-returner Chad Owens.
The five-foot-eight, 155-pound Williams has been a big-time player this season with Hamilton, having scored a record six kick-return TDs. He also leads the CFL in punt returns (72 for 1,034 yards, five TDs) and is fourth overall in receiving with 79 catches for 1,194 yards and nine touchdowns.
Williams was the CFL’s top rookie last season.
Owens is closing in on Mike (Pinball) Clemons’ single-season record of 3,840 all-purpose yards. Owens needs just 73 yards in Toronto’s regular-season finale against Hamilton to eclipse Clemons’ mark and with 233 yards would become the first player in pro football history to surpass the 4,000-yard plateau.
But Owens is also the CFL’s leading receiver with 91 catches for 1,289 yards.
Simpson became Winnipeg’s starting running back when incumbent Chris Garrett suffered a torn Achilles tendon prior to the start of the season. The 27-year-old Simpson is fourth overall in CFL rushing with 1,039 yards and five TDs in 14 games for the Bombers.
Cornish, Sherritt, Owens and Williams were all double nominees.
Cornish was also named Calgary’s top Canadian while Sherritt earned Edmonton’s top defensive player nomination.
The voting for top Canadian in the West will be interesting with running back Andrew Harris getting the Lions’ nomination for the award. The Winnipeg native is third overall in rushing (1,055 yards, six TDs) and also has 74 catches for 712 yards and four TDs.
Harris also leads the CFL in yards from scrimmage with 1,767 yards — the most ever by a Canadian. But Saskatchewan’s Kory Sheets is just seven yards behind, with Cornish trailing Harris by only 47 yards.
Owens and Williams were also unanimous picks as outstanding special-teams player selections.
Other two-time nominees included Saskatchewan centre Dom Picard (lineman, Canadian) and Montreal linebacker Shea Emry (defensive player, Canadian).
Two leading candidates for the CFL’s top rookie award were unanimous selections.
Defensive lineman Jabar Westerman — taken second overall by B.C. in this year’s Canadian college draft — got the Lions’ nod after recording three sacks with the defending Grey Cup champions. Meanwhile in Winnipeg, receiver Chris Matthews deservedly got the Bombers’ nod with 75 catches for 1,137 yards and seven TDs.