Stampeders running back Jon Cornish believes he's got the inside track on the CFL's Most Outstanding Player Award. Eric Francis says he's right. (DARREN MAKOWICHUK/QMI Agency)
CALGARY - With all due respect to Travis Lulay, Jon Cornish believes he is, indeed, the Most Outstanding Player in the CFL this season.
And while such boasting might initially come across as un-Canadian, the fact is he's right.
Mere hours after the Football Reporters of Canada announced the Stamps running back was the team's nominee as top player, the colourful Canuck shared his thoughts on why he should win the CFL's top individual honour over the only other logical candidate.
"Lulay has missed two games," Cornish said, of the B.C. Lions quarterback who sat out the last two outings with a shoulder ailment.
"I think it's a cumulative effort and all 18 games should count. You can't say, 'oh, those don't count.'"
Cornish wishes his Week 5 outing against the Lions didn't count, as it netted him a humbling minus-1 yards on six carries. However, from that point on in the season, Cornish was unstoppable, bouncing back with 170 yards against Hamilton and leading the Stamps to a league-best 9-3 record down the stretch.
"Since the bye week, I think we have been the best team in the league," said the 27-year-old from New Westminster, B.C.
"With our record, our numbers and my own performance since that point, I don't think there's anybody close to that."
Cornish points out only three starting running backs have played all 17 games so far.
"To play that position and take that sort of pounding for a whole season and have that sort of success ... if I had a vote -- and I'm not just saying this because he's on my team -- this year, Jon would be my MOP," said Stamps QB Kevin Glenn.
"He's been so consistent."
Players who win team nominations typically don't beat the drum to win their division nomination or league honour, but what's so refreshing about the cerebral rusher is that he answers questions so honestly.
Would he have dreamed any of this was possible as a little-used back two years ago?
"Absolutely," said Cornish who has an extensive background in sports psychology.
"If you seek to be a great player, you have to imagine yourself doing great things."
Cornish enters Friday's game in Edmonton needing just 50 yards to break Normie Kwong's 56-year-old CFL record for most rushing yards by a Canadian. He also shares the CFL lead with 11 rushing touchdowns and has a 145-yard lead for the CFL rushing title, which no Canadian has won since 1988.
While some feared all would be lost when Drew Tate went down two games into the season, it was Cornish's brilliance that helped take pressure off Glenn and the rest of the league's most prolific offence.
Still, there are those who will look at the Lions as being the class of the league and suggest the best player on the best team should get top honours, especially in a passing league.
"You've gotta give credit to Lulay, who has had a great season on a team that is the cream of the crop," said Cornish, who was also named the Stamps' top Canadian.
"He's led them to that point. You can give him credit for that. Or you could say a team that started out 2-3 and is suddenly just one game behind B.C., well, we've certainly developed as a team and I'm no different."
One obstacle he may have to overcome is winning over the Saskatchewan voters unimpressed by Cornish mooning the crowd from the sidelines in Regina.
"If somebody wants to hold that against me, that's fine, but at the end of the day we had a big game the following week," shrugged Cornish, who apologized and was fined for the move, which followed targeted pre-game comments by Saskatchewan coach Corey Chamblin.
"It wasn't a reaction out of anger -- it was something meant to increase level of animosity and I think I certainly succeeded in that regard. Something needed to happen. For a coach to call out a single player isn't classy."
After a slow start to the season, Cornish, indeed, pieced together a very special season and, in a league that prides itself on Canadian talent, there's no better message to send than by tipping the cap to one of the greatest seasons ever had by a Canadian.
Lulay was excellent, but Cornish was Outstanding.
Eric Francis appears regularly as a panellist on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada.