Walls tops in West

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:58 AM ET

The Canadian Football League is saying, "Hello Walls" in a big way.

Gavin Walls will be the only Blue Bomber making the trip to the Grey Cup in Vancouver this month. The Winnipeg defensive end will need a tuxedo, though, as he was named the West Division finalist for the CFL's Most Outstanding Rookie Award yesterday.

And he is the odds-on favourite to win it. Walls will be up against Montreal Alouettes backup defensive back Matthieu Proulx.

"I feel very happy for him," Bombers GM Brendan Taman said. "I thought highly of him when we first signed him and I battled to get him on the roster. The knock on him was that he was too small (6-foot-2, 235 pounds) but it worked out pretty good. They said the same thing about (tailback) Charlie (Roberts), too and that worked out pretty well, too."

Walls, 25, had a phenomenal rookie year despite playing on the worst defence in CFL history. He finished the season tied for second in quarterback sacks with 12, and he missed the last match due to injury. Walls also scored two touchdowns -- one on an interception return and the other on a fumble return.

Walls finished with 40 defensive tackles, three special teams tackles and four pass knockdowns, and was named CFL lineman of the week four times.

"He was an impact player and that's not easy to do in your first year," Taman said. "I knew he had the ability to get to that level but did not know if he could do it so soon."

The Bombers, however, may lose Walls who is heading into his option year and will take advantage of the window that allows him to explore NFL opportunities this winter, Taman said. But once that window closes, Taman will offer Walls a new contract that will most assuredly include a raise.

Walls could not be reached for comment, despite repeated messages left.

Proulx led Montreal with 12 special teams tackles and blocked two punts.

Saskatchewan's versatile Corey Holmes was named both the most outstanding player and top special teams rep in the West by the Football Reporters of Canada and the CFL head coaches. That means Roberts was stiffed despite winning the CFL rushing title with a last-place squad.

"I'm biased towards Charlie but if I was in Saskatchewan, I'd be biased towards that guy," Taman said. "He's a very good football player who does a lot of things for them."

Roberts could not be reached for a reaction.

Holmes will face stiff competition from Toronto Argonauts quarterback Damon Allen in what amounts to the MVP award and Toronto kicker Noel Prefontaine in the special teams category.

B.C. defensive end Brent Johnson will vie with Toronto linebacker Kevin Eiben for the top Canadian while Calgary linebacker John Grace will face Toronto linebacker Mike Fletcher in the top defensive player category. Saskatchewan's Gene Makowsky faces former teammate Scott Flory for top offensive lineman.

The winners will be announced at the Rogers CFL Players Awards in Vancouver on Nov. 24.

TV SCORE: Bomber SB Milt Stegall has been hired by The Score to be a football analyst for the next three weeks. His first appearance is today at 5:30 p.m. from Atlanta but he will be in Vancouver during Grey Cup week.


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