Chad Kelly would gladly switch spots with Brady Oliveira.
Kelly received the CFL’s outstanding player award Thursday ahead of Oliveira. But on Sunday, the Winnipeg running back will play in the Grey Cup game versus the Montreal Alouettes at Tim Hortons Field.
“Definitely, of course,” said Kelly. “We obviously wish we were out there right now but the past is in the past.
“You win some, you lose some, you wish you could win them all but that’s called life. I’ve moved on, I know where I need to get better and where to improve.”
Oliveira didn’t leave the CFL’s award banquet at Fallsview Casino & Resort empty-handed. He was named the outstanding Canadian while B.C. defensive lineman Mathieu Betts (defensive player) earned the other top honour.
Kelly was among five Argos to secure awards. The others were tackle Dejon Allen (lineman), cornerback Quan’tez Stiggers (rookie), returner Javon Leake (special-teams) and Ryan Dinwiddie (coach of the year).
Kelly received the George Reed Most Outstanding Player Award, now named after the former Saskatchewan Roughriders’ star who died last month at age 83. It was presented by Reed’s daughter, Georgette, and former winner Brandon Banks.
“I’m honoured to be a part of the first George Reed award,” Kelly said. “Obviously his legacy is cemented throughout the CFL and will live on forever.”
Voting was conducted by the Football Reporters of Canada and nine CFL head coaches. In total, 61 votes were completed.
George Hopkins, who’s been the Calgary Stampeders equipment manager for 52 years, received the Hugh Campbell Distinguished Leadership Award (significant CFL contribution). Hamilton Tiger-Cats owner Bob Young was presented the Commissioner’s Award (outstanding service to Canadian football).
Saskatchewan receiver Brayden Lenius earned the Jake Gaudaur Veterans’ Award (possessing attributes of Canada’s veterans) while Riders kicker Brettn Lauther got the Tom Pate Memorial Award (community service). Laurence Pontbriand, the CFL’s senior manager, football and officiating development, received the Jane Mawby Tribute award.
Kelly, 29, earned 39 votes after a stellar first season as a CFL starter. Toronto (16-2) tied the CFL record for most regular-season victories while establishing a franchise best.
Kelly, the nephew of former NFL star Jim Kelly, won 15 of 16 starts, the 93.8 win percentage being the best ever by a player with at least 14 starts. He completed 270 of 394 passes (68.5 per cent) for 4,123 yards with 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions while rushing for 248 yards and eight TDs – tied for second-most in the CFL – while earning league all-star honours.
The five-foot-10 220-pound Oliveira received 57 votes after rushing for a CFL-high 1,534 yards (5.9-yard average) with nine TDs for Winnipeg (14-4, first in the West Division).
The 26-year-old Winnipeg native had a league-high seven 100-yard games while setting career highs in catches (38), receiving yards (482) and total touchdowns (13, nine rushing, four receiving).
“This means the world to me,” Oliveira said. “I’m a proud Canadian, I’m living out a childhood dream playing for my hometown Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
“But the job isn’t done.”
Montreal safety Marc-Antoine Dequoy was the finalist.
The six-foot-three, 250-pound Betts received 49 votes after registering a CFL-high 18 sacks, the most ever by a Canadian. Betts, from Montreal, also had a career-best 44 tackles (three for a loss), three fumbles and a blocked punt in becoming the sixth Canadian to win the award but first since Calgary’s Alex Singleton in 2017.
“This season I didn’t have a set number of sacks as my objective and I’ve been recognized with this award,” Betts said. “My mindset (in ‘24) will be similar in terms of looking for sacks ... if it happens, I will be happy but it’s not something I will be looking for.”
Toronto linebacker Adarius Pickett was the finalist.
The six-foot-two 300-pound Allen received 39 votes after anchoring an offensive line that paved the way for Toronto’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2016 (A.J. Ouellette, 1,009 yards, 5.7-yard average). The Argos also averaged a league-best 7.3 yards per play.
“I never thought I’d be up here and not preparing for the Grey Cup,” said Allen, who then dedicated the award to his young daughter.
Winnipeg tackle Jermarcus Hardrick was the finalist.
Stiggers, who had 58 votes, recorded a team-high five interceptions and 56 tackles in 16 regular-season games. He helped Toronto’s defence rank first in interceptions (27), forced fumbles (22) and fumble recoveries (15, tied with Hamilton) and fewest big plays allowed (30).
Stiggers, who didn’t play American college football, is the fifth Argo to win the award but first since James Wilder Jr. in 2017. Edmonton defensive back Kai Gray was the finalist.
“I showed up to camp thinking I was going to be the first one cut,” Stiggers said. “But I really tell you, the guys and coaches in that room believed in miracles.”
The six-foot 205-pound Leake was the CFL’s top punt returner (81 for 1,216 yards, 15-yard average). Leake, who had 45 votes, registered a club-record four return TDs, one short of the league mark.
Leake is the fourth Argo to win the award but first since Swayze Waters in 2014. B.C. kicker Sean Whyte was the finalist.
Dinwiddie, a finalist the previous two years, secured 58 votes this time around. He’s the ninth head coach to win division titles in each of his first three seasons and becomes the ninth Argo winner but first since Marc Trestman in 2017.
“It (awards) is nice ... but I mean, who really cares,” Dinwiddie said. “You do it to win Grey Cup rings.
“We’re going to go to work and get going on that.”
Winnipeg’s Mike O’Shea, the recipient in 2021 and ‘22, was the finalist.