'Mates honour guard

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:35 AM ET

Jay McNeil had his heart set on earning a third Grey Cup ring this autumn, a plan thwarted by the Edmonton Eskimos.

Now the Calgary Stampeders guard has gratefully accepted his first President's Ring Award, as voted by teammates for his motivational and leadership skills on and off the field.

The veteran follows in the large footsteps of centre Jamie Crysdale, last season's winner, who has retired after 13 CFL campaigns.

"It's not the ring I wanted but I'm extremely overwhelmed and very proud, especially to have the guys in our locker-room vote on that award," said McNeil, now the team's longest- serving player after 12 seasons.

"It could have gone to any number of guys on our team and it's something I'm very proud of."

McNeil's selection was announced at a season wrap-up dinner party Monday night and will be officially presented at the annual President's Ring dinner in May.

"We had some funny awards where a lot of guys were called up to make presentations and then Tom (Higgins, Stamps head coach) asked me to come up to present the next award," said McNeil, 35.

"My whole thinking was I was going up to announce the President's Ring winner and that Crysdale would get it again. I was happy for him, it's his last year, that's awesome, so I was happy to be the one presenting it to him. Then Tom just shook my hand and I was like, 'Oh my gawd!' To see all my teammates there, it was very emotional."

McNeil is the fifth offensive lineman to be so honoured since the award's inception 38 years ago. He played in all 18 regular-season games and the West semifinal, a 33-26 loss Sunday to the Edmonton Eskimos.

The award was established in 1967 by then-team president George McMahon and GM Rogers Lehew. Linebacker Wayne Harris was the first recipient.

Meanwhile, Crysdale has been named the team's Tom Pate Award nominee, handed out annually to a CFL player who exhibits outstanding sportsmanship and someone who has made a significant contribution to his team, community and the Canadian Football League Players Association. The recipient will be announced during the CFL player awards in Vancouver Nov. 24.

Crysdale has been Stamps spokesperson for CUPS (Calgary Urban Project Society) in addition to a number of other initiatives.


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