'That's a great year'

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:19 AM ET

Two years ago, it was Ricky Ray.

Last year, it was Casey Printers.

This year, Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back Charles Roberts believes no one will stand in his way en route to being named Most Outstanding Player in the CFL's West Division.

Yesterday, Roberts, 26, was named Winnipeg's MOP for the third straight season, as voted upon by the local chapter of the Football Reporters of Canada.

Defensive end Gavin Walls was named top rookie and defensive player, punter Jon Ryan got the nod as top Canadian and special teams player, while left guard Matt Sheridan took home top lineman honours for the second straight season.

Career high

Those players now move on to the next round of balloting, which will determine the West and East nominees for all six awards. The league winners will then be revealed at the annual awards gala during Grey Cup week in Vancouver.

Roberts, who rushed for a career-high 1,624 yards and 12 touchdowns this season, hopes to be invited to the party on the West Coast.

"My belief is that I should have a chance," Roberts said yesterday as he drove home to California. "My belief is that I am the most (outstanding) player, at least in the West (Division). Our record (5-13) probably is a big, negative factor.

"(But) I don't know how you sportswriters can get together and not say a guy who rushes for a career high, 12 touchdowns, leads in yards from scrimmage by probably almost 300 yards ... that's a great season in spite of the losses."

The other division nominees are Ray, the Edmonton Eskimos quarterback who was the West's MOP two seasons ago, Saskatchewan Roughriders running back-kick returner Corey Holmes, B.C. Lions running back Antonio Warren and Calgary Stampeders quarterback Henry Burris.

"Corey Holmes should be my stiffest competition," Roberts said. "Neither one of the quarterbacks that were nominated had stellar years."

Ray, who has one regular-season game remaining, has completed 67.4% of his passes for 5,282 yards and 25 touchdowns, but he has thrown 21 interceptions.

Walls, 25, was one of the few bright spots on a terrible Bomber defence this season. He picked up 12 sacks, which is tied for the league lead, he scored two touchdowns (in the same game) and was named CFL lineman of the week four times.

He has an very good chance of winning the league-wide rookie honour.

"I went in there blindfolded, and I didn't exactly know what to expect, but I knew it all came down to football," Walls said last night from Arkansas about his venture north of the border. "I guess things turned out a little bit better than I expected."

Ryan, 23, broke Lui Passaglia's 1983 record for gross punting average (50.6 yards), and he also led the loop in net punting average (42.3 yards), but he doesn't think he'll be the West nominee in either of his categories.

"When my mother just asked me (what his chances were of moving on), I said one in a billion," Ryan said yesterday from his hometown of Regina.

Besides paving the way for the CFL's rushing leader, Sheridan, 28, received the highest marks in the coaches' grading system for offensive linemen.


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