Canada West Communications
- Regina QB Noah Picton is the unanimous Frank Gnup Memorial Award winner as the outstanding player of the year after setting the national single-season passing yards mark (3,186)
- Nicholas Dheilly (Rookie of the Year), and Steve Bryce (Coach of the Year) also won awards from the Rams
- Manitoba's DJ Lalama (Outstanding Defensive Player), Geoff Gray (Outstanding Down Lineman), and Cam Teschuk (Student-Athlete) took home individual honours
- Calgary's Marcello Rapini was named the conference's Gino Fracas Award nominee for national assistant coach of the year
NEW WESTMINSTER – With the 80th Hardy Cup just days away, Canada West is proud to announce the 2016 conference football major award winners.
Taking home the conference's biggest honour is third-year Regina Rams QB Noah Picton, who is the Frank Gnup Memorial Award winner as the outstanding player of the year after one of the greatest seasons in conference history.
Picton was the unanimous choice among the conference's six head coaches, who selected all the major award winners.
"Noah is just an outstanding leader. He has a voracious appetite for studying offence and attacking opposing defences. He has a very high football IQ and extremely high expectations for himself and his teammates. I don't think there's a player in the country who watches more game film," said Regina head coach Steve Bryce.
The business administration student set a new Canada West and U Sports single-season passing yards record, racking up 3,186 yards through the air.
That total surpassed former Calgary Dino Andrew Buckley's total of 3,162 set just last season.
Picton led the conference in every major passing category, including completion percentage at just under 70 per cent, completions with 224, yards per game with 398.3, as well as passing touchdowns with 25.
The Regina native now moves forward as the Canada West nominee for the Hec Crighton Award, where he'll be looking to take over the title from Buckley, who won the award in 2015 before moving onto the CFL's Calgary Stampeders.
NICHOLAS DHEILLY – Rookie of the Year
DL – Regina Rams
Along with Picton, defensive lineman Nicholas Dheilly also takes home a conference major award for a Regina team that went from worst to first in 2016.
Dheilly, who earned the honour unanimously, racked up a total of four sacks on the season to finish tied for second in the conference, just a half sack behind leader Jack McEwen of the Calgary Dinos.
A product of Regina's Dr. Martin Leboldus High School, Dheilly broke onto the scene Week 4 of the season against the Calgary Dinos, registering a trio of sacks in the Rams pivotal 32-27 win.
Dheilly followed that performance with another sack the following week in a 37-29 win over the Saskatchewan Huskies in front of a Canada West record crowd of 16,500 in the first-ever game at New Mosaic Stadium.
The Arts student finished the season with a total of 23.5 tackles, and now moves forward as the Canada West nominee for the Peter Gorman Award as national rookie of the year.
"Nicholas has an incredibly fast motor and is a very athletic lineman. He is tenacious on the field and his well-rounded athleticism makes him a great player on special teams as well. At only 18 years old, Nicholas has an incredible future ahead of him," said Bryce.
STEVE BRYCE – Coach of the Year
Head coach – Regina Rams
Regina head coach Steve Bryce is the unanimous Canada West Coach of the Year following his mastery at the helm of a program that went 0-8 just a season ago.
The former Rams junior player guided Regina to a 6-2 record, as the Rams topped the Canada West regular season standings for the first time in program history.
To call Regina's 2016 season remarkable would be an understatement, as Bryce initiated a culture shift that rapidly lifted his program to national relevance.
Bryce now moves forward as the conference's nominee for the Frank Tindall Award as national coach of the year.
"Coach Bryce has had a tremendous impact in his short time at the University of Regina and I'm elated that he's received this well-deserved honour," said Regina interim athletic director Tanya Reynoldson.
"While this award recognizes the on-field accomplishments with the Rams this season, he's also been a fine leader of the program off the field and constantly stresses the importance of academics and community involvement with the players. We are excited to see what the Rams can do in the coming years under the guidance of coach Bryce."
GEOFF GRAY – Outstanding Down Lineman
OL – Manitoba Bisons
For a second consecutive season the conference's outstanding down lineman hails from the University of Manitoba, as offensive lineman Geoff Gray take home the award.
Gray takes over the title from former Bison turned New Orleans Saint David Onyemata, who won the award on the defensive side of the ball last year before being drafted in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
A fourth-year engineering student, Gray started all eight conference regular season games at the guard position and was ranked 11th on the CFL Scouting Bureau's initial prospect list ahead of the 2017 CFL Draft this May.
Gray moves forward to the national stage as the Canada West nominee for the prestigious JP Metras Award.
"We are very proud of Geoff for being the conference nominee for the JP Metras award and Canada West Lineman of the Year. He is the second consecutive Bison to be selected for this honour after David Onyemata last year, who is now with the NFL's New Orleans Saints," said Bisons head coach Brian Dobie.
"Geoff has absolutely earned this nomination and conference award through his continuum hard work ethic and his devotion to constantly learn the game of football."
DJ LALAMA – Outstanding Defensive Player
LB – Manitoba Bisons
The second Manitoba Bison to take home a major conference award is one-man tackling machine DJ Lalama, who is the Canada West Outstanding Defensive Player.
The veteran linebacker led the conference and the country with 72.5 total tackles – 16 more than his next closest competitor in Canada West.
Lalama, a 2016 CFL Draft pick of the Edmonton Eskimos, started all eight games for Manitoba, and added seven break-ups, three forced fumbles and 2.5 tackles for loss to his impressive tackle total.
The graduate student will be looking to take home the President's Award as the nation's top defensive player.
"I am very happy and this is a well-deserved honour for DJ. A leader on our defence, DJ is also a leader in the locker room and our community as he was a finalist for the Russ Jackson award last season. An outstanding player and person, DJ had a record breaking season in 2016 and is a great representative for the President's award and nominee from the conference," said Dobie.
CAM TESCHUK – Student-Athlete Community Service
DB – Manitoba Bisons
Also winning some hardware from the Bisons is defensive back Cam Teschuk, who is the student-athlete award winner.
On the field, Teschuk recorded 23 total tackles and added a fumble recovery while playing in eight games for the Herd.
Off the field, Teschuk is a four-time All-Canadian business student, a Rhodes scholar applicant and active member of the Winnipeg volunteer community, working on several initiatives with the homeless, including the Five Days for the Homeless campaign, which raises awareness of youth homelessness.
Teschuk will now move forward as the conference nominee for the Russ Jackson Award, which recognizes one U Sports player for academics, football and citizenship.
"I am proud of Cam. I have coached 42 years and during that time Cam is unquestionably one of the best people I have known through the game of football. He is an absolute teammate, great friend, and an unselfish and tireless worker who always seems to be doing the right things for the common good and the well-being of those that surround him," said Dobie.
"He has represented the Bison Football program and our university with great integrity and pride. I am honoured to put forth this nomination of Cam Teschuk for the 2016 Russ Jackson award."
MARCELLO RAPINI – Assistant Coach of the Year
DB coach – Calgary DInos
In his 16th season as an assistant coach with the University of Calgary Dinos, Marcello Rapini is the Canada West nominee for the Gino Fracas Award.
A two-time Vanier Cup champion with the Dinos as a player in 1985 and 1988, Rapini has coached the defensive backs since 2006, with a previous stint from 1989-94. He coaches with the same passion and intensity that he played with, and holds his players to a high standard of accountability, and he has sent many players on to the CFL including Sam Hurl, Mike Edem, and Jamahl Knowles.
Rapini is heavily involved in game planning and implementing defensive cover schemes in practice, and his time commitment to the program is extraordinary, taking vacation time from his position as Vice President (Marketing) of Perpetual Energy for training camp, road trips, and film review. He is also heavily involved with the Dinos 5th Quarter alumni association, previously serving on the board of directors and helping in countless fundraising initiatives to support the on- and off-field activities of the football program.
"I have coached with him for 15 years, and the success I have had as a position coach, defensive coordinator, and head coach can be directly attributed to the support I have received from Marcello Rapini," said Dinos head coach Wayne Harris. "He is a very deserving representative for Canada West – he has done so much for the Dinos football program over the years as a player, with his coaching, and his association with the 5th Quarter. There are so many things behind the scenes that people don't see – he has also helped develop some great coaches in the city of Calgary at the high school level. We thank him for his commitment to the success of our program, and to the sport."
The U Sports national awards will be handed out Thursday, November 24th ahead of the Vanier Cup on Saturday, November 26th at Hamilton's Tim Hortons Field.
The 80th Hardy Cup is slated for this Saturday at 1 p.m. MT when the Calgary Dinos host the UBC Thunderbirds in a rematch of last year's conference championship. The game can be seen live on Shaw TV, Access Communications, and CanadaWest.tv.