Special day for Stokes

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:04 AM ET

No special teams player was more spectacular this season than Keith Stokes.

The Football Reporters of Canada confirmed that last night when the 25-year-old Winnipeg Blue Bombers kick returner was voted the CFL's Most Outstanding Special Teams player during its annual awards ceremony in Gatineau, Que.

"It feels real good," Stokes said last night via telephone. "It means a lot. All the work we put in during the season, me and my teammates who were out there blocking real hard and running real hard, it pays off in the end."

Stokes, whom the Bombers acquired in a trade with the Montreal Alouettes in January, was the East Division finalist for the award in 2002 as a rookie with the Alouettes, but he lost to Saskatchewan's Corey Holmes.

The last Bomber to win the league's special teams honour, also known as the John Agro Award, was Charles Roberts in 2001.

Stokes, who earned the nickname of "Replay" this season thanks to his electrifying moves, led the CFL this season in punt returns (949 yards, four touchdowns), kickoffs (1,112 yards, one TD) and was third overall in all-purpose yards (2,594).

The native of Toms River, N.J., also was the special teams player of the month in August and the player of the week three times. He was also the special teams runner-up in September.

The runner-up for the award was Ottawa's Jason Armstead, who was third in punt returns (821 yards, one touchdown), sixth in kickoff returns (700 yards) and returned four missed field goals 160 yards.

Stokes not only broke the Winnipeg Football Club's single-season record for punt return TDs, which was two, but he also topped the club's all-time mark of three.

"My success was from the hard work of my teammates," said Stokes, who was going to celebrate last night by taking his mom, Sarah Hall, out to dinner. "They worked so hard for me out there. If I could I would give the award to them."

Stokes is entering his option year, and he said last night that a few NFL teams have talked about offering him a workout.

"It's a possibility," Stokes said, "but nothing is in concrete."

He signed with the Miami Dolphins in 2003, but he was cut in June after mini-camps.

Replay would obviously jump at the chance for an NFL job, but if he doesn't get one, he would like to repeat his success of 2004.

"I'm going to go out there to try to do my best and hopefully ... win (the award) again," he said. "I would love to come back. The team was well deserving (of success). We worked real hard. We just came out on the short end of the stick.

"We had a lot of talent out there, we just didn't gel at the right time."


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