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Fajardo nominated for West Division's most outstanding player award

Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Cody Fajardo joined some elite company on Thursday.

Fajardo is just the 11th Roughrider to be named the West Division’s most outstanding player. The awards are to be presented on Nov. 21 in Calgary in advance of the 107th Grey Cup game on Nov. 24.

Fajardo will also have some company from the Riders as linebacker Cameron Judge was named the West Division’s most outstanding Canadian and head coach Craig Dickenson was selected the West Division’s coach of the year.

Saskatchewan’s other MOP finalists were George Reed (1965, 1968 and 1969), Ron Lancaster (1966, 1970, 1976), Ken Carpenter (1955), Robert Mimbs (1996), Corey Holmes (2005) and Kerry Joseph (2007).

Lancaster won the award in 1970 and 1976. Reed (1965) and Joseph (2007) were each honoured once.

Fajardo earned the recognition after his first season as a starting quarterback. He was previously a career backup and short-yardage specialist with the Toronto Argonauts (2016-17) and B.C. Lions (2018).

Fajardo led the CFL in passing yards (4,302). He completed 18 touchdown passes against eight interceptions and rushed for 10 majors.

He also guided the Riders to a 13-5 record, the highest win total since 1970 when Lancaster directed the Green and White to a 14-2 mark along with first place in the West Division.

The 2019 Riders also finished first in the West Division after Saturday’s 23-13 win over the visiting Edmonton Eskimos. Fajardo, however, was on the sideline while dealing with an injured oblique muscle. Rookie Isaac Harker stepped in for Fajardo, completing 23 of 28 passes for 213 yards.

The Riders earned a bye this week and will play host to the winner of Sunday’s West Division semifinal between the Calgary Stampeders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the division final on Nov. 17. Fajardo has vowed that he will be healthy for the West Division final.

Fajardo opened the season as the Riders’ back-up quarterback to Zach Collaros. That changed during the third play of the regular season when Collaros suffered a concussion after an illegal hit to the head. Fajardo closed out the regular season with a 12-4 record as a starter.

Brandon Banks, a receiver with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, is the East Division’s nominee for most outstanding player. Banks led the CFL in receptions (111), receiving yards (1,550), receiving touchdowns (13) and yards after the catch (657).

Judge, the second overall pick in the 2017 CFL draft, broke through in his third season with the Riders. He had 61 defensive tackles, 12 special-teams tackles, five sacks and two interceptions. Linebacker Henoc Muamba of the Montreal Alouettes is the East Division’s nominee. Muamba was second in the CFL with 93 defensive tackles.

Dickenson led the Riders to first place in the West Division for the first time since 2009. Hamilton’s Orlondo Steinhauer, also a rookie head coach, led the Tiger-Cats to a 15-3 record and a 9-0 mark at Tim Hortons Field.

Saskatchewan’s nominees for the individual award were defensive end Charleston Hughes (most outstanding defensive player), centre Dan Clark (most outstanding offensive lineman), guard Dakoda Shepley (most outstanding rookie) and punter Jon Ryan (most outstanding special-teams player).

The most outstanding defensive player nominees are Winnipeg defensive end Willie Jefferson and Hamilton linebacker Simoni Lawrence. Jefferson had 12 sacks and set a CFL record for defensive lineman with 12 knockdowns. Lawrence led the CFL with 98 defensive tackles and chipped in four sacks.

The nominees for most outstanding offensive lineman are Stanley Bryant of the Blue Bombers and Chris Van Zeyl of the Tiger-Cats. Bryant has been named the league’s most outstanding lineman award the previous two years and is aiming to be the first-ever to win the award three consecutive times.

Linebacker Mike Miller of the Blue Bombers is the West Division’s nominee for most outstanding special teams player Returner Frankie Williams of the Tiger-Cats is the East’s nominee. Miller led the CFL with 25 special-teams tackles. Williams was the league-leader in punt returns (949 yards) and was third in kickoff returns (1,071 yards). He also returned a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns.

Calgary linebacker Nate Holley is the nominee for the West Division’s most outstanding rookie and Montreal receiver Jake Wienke is the East Division’s nominee. Holley recorded 78 defensive tackles and 22 special-teams tackles. Wienke had 41 receptions for 569 yards and a team-best eight receiving touchdowns.

Members of the Football Reporters of Canada and nine head coaches vote on the league awards.