Western QB Merchant highlights 2019 award winners and all-Canadians

Photo by U SPORTS
Photo by U SPORTS

Quebec City (via U SPORTS) – Western Mustangs quarterback Chris Merchant was honoured Thursday night with the Hec Crighton Trophy as the most outstanding player in U SPORTS football as the national award winners and all-Canadians were celebrated at the annual Vanier Cup gala. 

Greg Marshall, who guided the Mustangs to back-to-back Vanier Cup appearances in 2017 and 2018, joined his star pivot in the winners’ circle, meriting the Frank Tindall Trophy as Fox 40 Coach of the year for the second straight season and for the third time in his illustrious career.

Other major award recipients included Saskatchewan defensive back Nelson Lokombo, named the stand-up Defensive Player of the year (Presidents’ Trophy); McGill defensive tackle Andrew Seinet-Spaulding, voted the outstanding down lineman (J.P. Metras Trophy); Concordia receiver Jeremy Murphy, who earned top rookie honours (Peter Gorman Trophy); York free safety Jacob Janke, who was recognized for his excellence in football, academics and citizenship (Russ Jackson Award); as well as Regina’s Greg Nesbitt, selected by Football Canada as the Volunteer Assistant Coach of the year (Gino Fracas Award).

The gala held at the Vidéotron Centre in Quebec City officially kicked off the festivities around the 55th Vanier Cup presented by Promutuel Insurance, which will culminate on Saturday at TELUS-Université Laval Stadium, where the Calgary Dinos and Montreal Carabins are set to battle for Canadian university football supremacy, starting at 1 p.m. ET / 10 a.m. PT.

HEC CRIGHTON TROPHY – CHRIS MERCHANT (Western)

Merchant, a fifth-year senior from Calgary, was a constant presence throughout Western’s undefeated regular season, the third consecutive year the Mustangs have accomplished that feat. The Kinesiology major is the very definition of a dual threat with his ability to beat defences both through the air or with his legs. Merchant followed up an impressive 2018 by completing 159 of 232 pass attempts this season (68.5 per cent) for 2,378 yards and 14 touchdowns. But Merchant was just as dangerous when he called his own number, rushing the ball a career-high 77 times for another 438 yards and six majors.

The Mustangs’ leader hit his stride in his team’s 40-23 win over Queen’s in week 2. Merchant’s arsenal was on full display as he passed for a season-high 355 yards with two touchdowns, while adding another score on the ground. He would close the season with a dominant stretch of play, racking up over 1,000 passing yards and nine total touchdowns in the final three wins of the regular season over Windsor, Waterloo, and Ottawa, respectively. Merchant would finish the year topping all OUA quarterbacks in pass efficiency at 167.7.

Statistics aside, one of the most impressive aspects of Merchant’s season was an ability to guide an offence that featured several young players on the offensive line, as well as a changing of the guard in the backfield. The poise and veteran leadership he had amassed in Western’s long postseason runs in recent years were imperative to the team manufacturing yet another undefeated campaign.

Merchant can now add Hec Crighton Trophy winner and First Team All-Canadian to a list of accomplishments that includes OUA MVP (2019), second team OUA all-star status in 2018, the Dalt White Trophy as Yates Cup MVP, and Mitchell Bowl MVP (both in 2018), and winning the Ted Morris Memorial Trophy as Vanier Cup MVP (2017).

“Chris Merchant has had an outstanding season and career as our quarterback at Western,” said head coach Greg Marshall. “He has made a significant impact on our football program at Western.  He has been an outstanding athlete, student and teammate at Western. He really is the ideal of what we want in our U SPORTS student-athletes. He quite simply is a winner.  His work ethic and competitive spirit has been an inspiration to our team. His record as our starting quarterback is an incredible 39-3.  He has been an academic All-Canadian, our team MVP, OUA all-star, Yates Cup, Mitchel Bowl and Vanier Cup MVP. He is truly deserving of this award and will go down as one of the best student-athletes to ever play at Western.”

Nominees

CW: Adam Machart, Saskatchewan (running back)

OUA: Chris Merchant, Western (quarterback) – Winner

RSEQ: Adam Vance, Concordia (quarterback)

AUS: Hunter Guenard, Acadia (quarterback)

PRESIDENTS’ TROPHY – NELSON LOKOMBO (Saskatchewan)

A ball-hawking defensive back, Nelson Lokombo became the eighth player in program history to be named Canada West's Outstanding Defensive Player and the third Huskie to claim the Presidents’ Trophy at the U SPORTS level.

The product of Abbotsford recorded four interceptions, running two back for touchdowns, setting a new program record for interception return yards with 197. Despite opposing offences steering clear of his side of the field for much of the year, the kinesiology student finished with 4.5 tackles-for-loss and 23.5 total tackles. 

“He was my first recruit after I got the job because I knew how good he was and how good he could be,” said Huskies head coach Scott Flory. “He's a special young man and a special talent for sure.”

Nominees

CW: Nelson Lokombo, Saskatchewan (defensive back) – Winner

OUA: Jack Cassar, Carleton (linebacker)

RSEQ: Andrew Seinet-Spaulding, McGill (defensive tackle)

AUS: Bailey Feltmate, Acadia (linebacker)

J.P. METRAS TROPHY – ANDREW SEINET-SPAULDING (McGill)

Andrew Seinet-Spaulding of Pierrefonds, Que., is the third McGill player to be named as U SPORTS’ most outstanding lineman. The school’s previous winners both went on to be drafted by an NFL team, including Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (Kansas City 2013) and Randy Chevrier (Jacksonville 2000).

Seinet-Spaulding was a unanimous selection on the RSEQ all-star team. A six-foot, 292-pound defensive tackle, he led the Quebec league in both quarterback sacks (7) and tackles for loss (13.5), despite being double-teamed by every opponent. The 23-year-old social work senior tallied 27.5 total tackles, 22 of them solo, in eight regular season games. A co-captain and recipient of a Montreal Alouettes athletic excellence bursary, he was also credited with one forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

“Andrew has a good combination of athleticism with size and speed,” said Ronald Hilaire, head coach and defensive coordinator at McGill. “He anchors our defensive line, has big-play ability and makes everyone around him better. To see what he has accomplished this year is a testament to his work ethic, both in the weight-room and on the field. He’s a young man that fights hard for everything, including his social work studies in the classroom and the community.”

Nominees

CW: Evan Machibroda, Saskatchewan (defensive tackle)

OUA: Cameron Lawson, Queen’s (defensive tackle)

RSEQ: Andrew Seinet-Spaulding, McGill (defensive tackle) - Winner

AUS: Oliver Grant, Acadia (offensive tackle)

PETER GORMAN TROPHY – JEREMY MURPHY (Concordia)

It’s no surprise that versatile inside receiver Jeremy Murphy, who is from St. Bruno de Montarville, Que. and checks in at six-feet and 180 pounds, has been named the Rookie of the Year. The Concordia Stinger all-star closed out the 2019 regular season with very impressive numbers. He caught 34 passes for 491 yards in eight games. He was third in the conference in receiving yards, but he led all receivers in the RSEQ with four touchdowns.

Murphy comes out of the Champlain College, St. Lambert, football program where he was the RSEQ Division 3 Outstanding Player on Offence in 2018.

“Jeremy was a jack of all trades in CEGEP, successfully playing receiver, quarterback, defence, special teams,” said Stingers head coach Brad Collinson. “I’m impressed with how he handled things in his first year of university football. His competitiveness makes him lethal. He believes he can run every route and catch every ball. He usually plays against the best defensive backs on the other teams. Even when he became more familiar to the teams around the league, they couldn’t stop him.”

Nominees

CW: Ramsey Derbas, Saskatchewan (linebacker)

OUA: Kojo Odoom, Western (defensive back)

RSEQ: Jeremy Murphy, Concordia (receiver) - Winner

AUS: Daniel Bell, Mount Allison (defensive back)

RUSS JACKSON AWARD – JACOB JANKE (York)

Every OUA football player wants to perform well on the field when game day comes around. But for York Lions standout free safety Jacob Janke, the desire to contribute extends beyond the boundaries of the playing surface. The fifth-year Commerce major from Edmonton, Alta. has earned the Russ Jackson Award by amassing an impressive list of accomplishments on and off the field.

On the field, Janke achieved OUA first team all-star honours thanks to a breakthrough season in which he racked up 34 total tackles, four tackles for losses, two forced fumbles, once sack, one fumble recovery, and three pass breakups. His array of skills caught the eye of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who selected the York man in the fourth round (35th overall) in the 2019 CFL Draft.

Beyond the sidelines, meanwhile, Janke is a true leader for the Lions program. He is the co-founder of Tiny Strides, a non-profit organization that he and three teammates launched to service underprivileged youth in the community. Janke credits football with enabling him to get to where he is and he is passionate about his belief that sport can help children reach their potential. With Tiny Strides, he is ensuring that kids in need will have the same opportunities that he was afforded. The grassroots organization offers financial assistance for registration fees and equipment, in addition to providing a mentorship program where Janke serves as a relatable role model for children.

In the summer of 2019, he spent a week working with almost 200 kids at a Toronto refugee shelter, introducing them to sport-specific programming to help them deal with the upheaval they had experienced. Janke still visits the children and Tiny Strides was able to host 100 of them at York homes games this season. The organization has also put on football clinics with the York Region Lions, a local junior football program, in addition to offering a free football day for children to experience the sport. Janke has done speaking engagements and is constantly working on fundraising projects that enable Tiny Strides to make an impact in the community.

The Lions’ veteran doesn’t allow the massive commitment to football and philanthropy to negatively affect his work in the classroom. Janke is a commerce major specializing in finance, with a 6.67 GPA. He has already completed three summer internships at the Bay Street firm Waypoint Investment Partners, where he has served as a public equity analyst. Janke has continued to work with the company in a part-time capacity throughout the school year, showing the enduring work ethic that is mandatory for any Russ Jackson Award winner.

“Jacob is the epitome of what we want our York Lions football players to be like. He excels in all three pillars of the core of what a student-athlete should be,” said York head coach Warren Craney. “He is a three-time team captain, a dominant free safety, a diligent student with a clear focus on his future career path and a tremendous role model for youth in our community. I am confident he will be successful whether he is on the field with the Saskatchewan Roughriders or in an office on Bay Street. I am so proud of him.”

Nominees

CW: Derek Dufault, Manitoba (defensive end)

OUA: Jacob Janke, York (defensive back) - Winner

RSEQ: Alexandre Paré, McGill (linebacker)

AUS: Bailey Feltmate, Acadia (linebacker)

FRANK TINDALL TROPHY – GREG MARSHALL (Western)

Longevity is one of the true marks of greatness. Greg Marshall, the man at the helm of the current Western Mustangs dynasty, has been leading teams to championships for several years and after a third consecutive undefeated season in London, the Canadian university football legend earned his seventh OUA Coach of the Year award, and now his third Frank Tindall Trophy – and his second consecutive - at the U SPORTS level (2000, 2018, 2019).

Within the OUA conference, the Guelph, Ont. native and former Mustang player earned his first two nods back in 1999 and 2000 when he patrolled the sidelines for the McMaster Marauders. And since 2010, Marshall has taken home the award more five times, eclipsing former Western head coach Larry Haylor’s previous total of six.

Marshall hasn’t allowed complacfency to set in to a team that has stood out among all programs in U SPORTS the past three years. After completing the ultimate double in winning the Yates Cup and the Vanier Cup in 2017, the Mustangs took the OUA banner again in 2018 before finishing the season with another Vanier appearance. Marshall’s team has not missed a beat in 2019. Western kicked the season off with a 32-19 win on the road at Laurier before running the table on the OUA schedule, capped by a 32-22 home win over Ottawa. The always-potent offensive team was dominant once again, leading the conference with 36.3 points per game and finishing third with 468.1 yards per contest. Marshall’s offence can trouble opponents in a variety of ways, evidenced by an OUA-best 9.8 passing yards per attempt, and league-highs in both first downs (223), rushing first downs (99), and third-down conversions (23 of 32 for 72 per cent).

Now in his 13th season in charge of the Mustangs, Marshall has guided the team to six Yates Cup victories and a Vanier Cup title in 2017.

“Despite an offseason with multiple coaching changes, several graduating starters, and a largely rookie offensive line, Coach Marshall led the Mustangs to another undefeated season,” said Christine Stapleton, Director, Sports and Recreation Services at Western. “His ability to motivate and inspire his teams is a testament to the hours of hard work and dedication he puts in to not just winning games but seeing his student-athletes succeed both on and off the field. Coach Marshall is not one to want the spotlight centered on him but he deserves the recognition for the incredible work that he does representing our football program, athletics department and the university as a whole.” 

Nominees

CW: Scott Flory, Saskatchewan

OUA: Greg Marshall, Western (Winner)

RSEQ: Glen Constantin, Laval

AUS: Jeff Cummins, Acadia

GINO FRACAS AWARD – GREG NESBITT (Regina)

For more than a decade Greg Nesbitt has been pouring hours into shaping the Regina Rams defensive line.

Nesbitt began coaching with the Rams in 2004 and is the winner of the Gino Fracas Award, which honours a dedicated volunteer coach. Among Nesbitt’s famous pupils are a pair of NFLers, as Akiem Hicks and Stefan Charles both developed under Nesbitt’s tutelage.

“Greg Nesbitt is a coach who has meant so much to so many young men,” said Rams head coach Steve Bryce. “Greg is an outstanding technical teacher who is constantly fine tuning his own knowledge regarding defensive line play and hand-fighting. Greg is a demanding coach who sets his standards high and works with his athletes in a number of facets to help them meet & exceed his standards on the field and drives them to be better men throughout their lives. Greg has been a fill-in father, a counsellor, a mentor, and eventually a life-long friend to his athletes. As a fellow coach, Greg’s experience and wisdom have allowed numerous coaches to lean on him for guidance and direction. His mild and pleasant demeanour hides a driven and passionate coach who has influenced and inspired hundreds of young men. There are generations of athletes who are better men and who achieved lofty goals thanks in part to the years that Greg Nesbitt has given to football. He will he missed on the field and in the coaches office.” 

Nominees

CW: Greg Nesbitt, Regina (Winner)

OUA: Joe Sardo, Guelph

RSEQ: David Carson, McGill

AUS: Michael Squires, Acadia

2019 U SPORTS FOOTBALL ALL-CANADIANS

The all-Canadian selection was dominated by usual suspects.

One of two U SPORTS teams to run the table during the regular season, Western led the way with six all-stars, including four on the first squad. Saskatchewan, Laval and Montreal followed with five nods apiece, while Calgary earned four.

Among first-team all-Canadians, six are returnees from last year’s top unit. The list includes Laval linemen Samuel Thomassin (guard) and Kétel Assé (tackle) and Waterloo receiver Tyler Ternowski on offence, as well as Manitoba tackle Evan Machibroda, Montreal halfback Marc-Antoine Dequoy and Calgary corner Deane Leonard on defence.

FIRST TEAM

Offence

Pos.

First Name

Last Name

School

Centre

Connor

Berglof

Saskatchewan

Guard

Samuel

Thomassin

Laval

Guard

Mattland

Riley

Saskatchewan

Tackle

Carter

O'Donnell

Alberta

Tackle

Kétel

Assé

Laval

Receiver

Tyler

Ternowski

Waterloo

Receiver

James

Tyrrell

Concordia

Receiver

Jalen

Philpot

Calgary

Receiver

Glodin

Mulali

Acadia

Running Back

Levondre

Gordon

Wilfrid Laurier

Running Back

Adam

Machart

Saskatchewan

Quarterback

Chris

Merchant

Western


Defence

Pos.

First Name

Last Name

School

Defensive Tackle

Andrew

Seinet-Spaulding

McGill

Defensive Tackle

Evan

Machibroda

Saskatchewan

Defensive End

Réshaan

Davis

Ottawa

Defensive End

Derek

Dufault

Manitoba

Linebacker

Jack

Cassar

Carleton

Linebacker

Kean

Harelimana

Laval

Linebacker

Nick

Cross

UBC

Free Safety

Jayden

Dalke

Alberta

Half Back

Marc-Antoine

Dequoy

Montreal

Half Back

Nelson

Lokombo

Saskatchewan

Corner

Bleska

Kambamba

Western

Corner

Deane

Leonard

Calgary


Special Teams
 

Pos.

First Name

Last Name

School

Punter

Marc

Liegghio

Western

Place Kicker

Marc

Liegghio

Western

Kick Returner

Clark

Barnes

Guelph


SECOND TEAM

Offence

Pos.

First Name

Last Name

School

Centre

Samuel

Lefebvre

Laval

Guard

Coulter

Woodmansey

Guelph

Guard

Pier-Olivier

Lestage

Montreal

Tackle

Zack

Fry

Western

Tackle

Logan

Bandy

Calgary

Receiver

Brett

Ellerman

Western

Receiver

Will

Corby

Toronto

Receiver

Kevin

Kaya

Montreal

Receiver

Ben

Kopczynski

Alberta

Running Back

Dale

Wright

Acadia

Running Back

Félix

Garand-Gauthier

Laval

Quarterback

Tre

Ford

Waterloo


Defence

Pos.

First Name

Last Name

School

Defensive Tackle

J-Min

Pelley

Calgary

Defensive Tackle

Cameron

Lawson

Queen's

Defensive End

Samuel

Rossi

Montreal

Defensive End

Malcolm

Campbell

Toronto

Linebacker

Brian

Harelimana

Montreal

Linebacker

Ben

Hladik

UBC

Linebacker

Bailey

Feltmate

Acadia

Free Safety

Jacob

Janke

York

Half Back

Noah

Hallett

McMaster

Half Back

Shae

Weekes

Manitoba

Corner

Tyrell

Ford

Waterloo

Corner

Antoine

Lyte-Myers

Saint Mary's


Special Teams

Pos.

First Name

Last Name

School

Punter

Keiran

Burnham

StFX

Place Kicker

Louis

Tardif

Sherbrooke

Kick Returner

Michael

Ritchott

Manitoba

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