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Acadia's Jeff Cummins wins CIS coach of the year

Acadia Axemen head coach Jeff Cummins has won the Frank Tindall trophy awarded to the top Canadian Interuniversity Athletics football coach. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Andrew Vaughan/CP

Acadia's Jeff Cummins claimed Canadian university football coach of the year honours Friday after guiding the Axemen to an Atlantic conference title.

Meanwhile, Wilfrid Laurier receiver/kick returner Dillon Heap received the Russ Jackson award recognizing excellence in football, academics and citizenship.

Cummins and Heap were honoured at the championship breakfast Friday morning, hours before Laval and McMaster were set to battle in the 47th Vanier Cup final.

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Cummins became only the second Acadia coach to claim the Frank Tindall trophy as coach of the year, following in the footsteps of John Huard, who earned the honour in 1981.

In his ninth season, Cummins guided the Axemen to a 7-1 record, marking a three-win improvement from a year ago and the team's best campaign since 1986 when it finished 7-0.

It was also the program's first winning season since 2006. Acadia went on to defeat Saint Mary's 39-20 in the Loney Bowl final to capture its first league title in five years.

"There is no one more deserving of this national recognition than Jeff Cummins," Acadia athletic director Kevin Dickie said in a release. "Jeff is not only passionate about the game of football but also about Acadia athletics. He continues to champion the history and tradition of his own program, while supporting all of our other varsity teams.

"We are extremely proud of Jeff and our team's 2011 season."

Following his college playing career with the University of Oregon, Cummins coached pro football for 11 years including stints in the NFL, CFL, AFL and XFL. He's compiled a career record of 36 wins and 36 losses at Acadia in conference play, along with a 6-7 playoff mark.

Sherbrooke's Andre Bolduc, Windsor's Joe D'Amore and UBC's Shawn Olson were the other finalists for the Frank Tindall trophy.

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Heap is the second Laurier player to win the Russ Jackson award, after Josh Alexander in 2001.

On the field, the five-foot-10, 175-pound senior was the Golden Hawks' leading receiver and kick returner, with 40 catches for 625 yards in eight league games, as well as 458 yards on 40 punt returns and 121 yards on six kickoff returns.

He became only the third player in CIS history to reach the 2000-yard career mark in punt returns (2,113).

Heap was also one of the Hawks' top performers in the classroom. Last year, the business student and Waterloo native was honoured with Laurier's Luke Fuscop Academic Athletic Achievement Award for the second consecutive year as the university's top academic male athlete.

Heap's volunteer work in the community includes a two-year mission in Chile. He also teaches Sunday school, and is the president of the Latter-Day Saints Association at Wilfrid Laurier.

"Dillon is one of the best athletes ever in our program," Hawks' head coach Gary Jeffries said in a release. "However, what sets him apart from many great athletes is the fact that he is an 'A' student who has mentored fellow student-athletes and is a true leader in the community and at his church."

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Acadia's Andrew Frazer, McGill's Austin Anderson and Regina's Brett Jones were finalists for the award.

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