Maas leads Esks' nominations

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

There were plenty of outstanding performers who tugged on an Edmonton Eskimos jersey this season.

A half-dozen of that group were deemed a cut above the rest by the local chapter of the Football Reporters of Canada and received the Esks' nominations for the six outstanding player awards presented annually.

Jason Maas was selected the club's nominee for the outstanding player award.

Following Ricky Ray's departure, Maas moved back into the starting quarterback role and completed 361 of 549 passes for 5,270 yards and 31 touchdowns in leading the Esks to a 9-9-0 regular season record and a 33rd consecutive trip to post-season play.

One of Maas's favourite targets, Jason Tucker and his 1,600-plus yards receiving, would have got his vote. Ditto for other members of the Green and Gold.

"It's nice," said Maas, Edmonton's nominee for the '01 OP award and who played behind Ray in '02 and again last season. "But when a quarterback gets an award like that you have to give a lot of credit to the guys around me. I also give credit to (offensive co-ordinator) Danny Maciocia, obviously, for believing in me and helping me out all season. Without him, anything I do out on the field wouldn't be possible.

"Then you've got a receiver like Tucker who averaged 24 yards per catch and had an amazing season. He was deserving of it too. Then, of course, there's the O-line and Mike (Pringle) and the rest of the receivers.

"It's a nice honour and it's very flattering. It's more because of the guys that I have surrounding me than anything. I realize that more than anybody."

The five-year CFL veteran started all 18 games this season.

"I'm just thankful that I stayed healthy all year," he said. "I think one of the main reasons that I'm able to get a nomination like that was I was able to stay healthy.

"When you stay healthy for 18 games all the other things kind of take care of themselves."

Maas is up against Winnipeg running back Charles Roberts, B.C. pivot Casey Printers, Saskatchewan running back Kenton Keith and Calgary linebacker John Grace in the next round of voting to determine the Western Division finalists for each of the categories.

The straight-shooting Maas doesn't like his chances of acing out Printers in the next round of voting. "I'm pretty sure everyone knows where that's going, so I don't even worry about that," he said.

Mathieu Bertrand earned the Esks' top rookie nomination. The six-foot-two, 242-pounder led Laval to a pair of Vanier Cup titles and was twice nominated for the Hec Crighton Trophy and was a two-time conference MVP during his tenure with the Rouge et Or.

"It's an honour to be selected," Bertrand said. "What I wanted to do this season was to adjust to the (professional) game and my new position and do the best I could on special teams to help the team ... I had to make adjustments but I listened to all the advice and worked as hard as I could, so I'm happy."

Kevin Lefsrud, who moved from right guard to centre for the final four games, is the Esks' outstanding lineman nominee. Malcolm Frank, who returned a CFL-record five interceptions for TDs this season, got the nod as the team's outstanding defensive player. Kicker Sean Fleming collected his second nomination as Edmonton's outstanding Canadian player. Winston October garnered the outstanding special-teams nomination. Winners will be announced Nov. 18.


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