It was only about a year and a half ago that Graeme Bell could not even talk.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers fullback had suffered a serious head wound after being attacked by an assailant wielding a baseball bat on a Saskatoon street.
Bell missed the entire 2007 season, had a plate inserted in his head and had to learn how to talk and walk again. Then, he made a triumphant return when he cracked the Bomber roster out of training camp.
Bell's amazing recovery was capped off when he was nominated as the club's most outstanding special teams player yesterday.
"Bell has contributed significantly and is definitely comeback player of the league," Bombers GM Brendan Taman said.
"Yeah, it's nice," responded Bell, who just turned 28. "I was just happy to come back and be part of the team. To get recognition for what we do is obviously nice but it's just been a great year for me to be able to come back to a sport that I like."
Bell leads the club with 22 special teams tackles -- sixth in the CFL.
"Obviously, it feels good to get the recognition but the recognition should go to all the guys around you who are making plays," said Bell, who suggested that kick returner Jason Armstead would have gotten the nod had he played here all year.
Import tackle Dan Goodspeed was named the team's most outstanding offensive lineman for the second straight year while guard Brendon LaBatte got the nod as top rookie. Defensive tackle Doug Brown was nominated in the other three categories.
The players were selected by the local Football Reporters of Canada and Bomber head coach Doug Berry. The East and West nominees for the 2008 Gibson's Finest CFL Player Awards will be announced next Tuesday.
GOOD THE BEST: Goodspeed, who was the Eastern nominee last year, has really come on like gangbusters after a poor start this season.
"It's always an honour especially when I think we're still a good offensive line," said the 6-foot-5, 319-pound import. We've got a lot of good players and I'm proud to represent them."
The early-season struggles were due to adjusting to new linemates.
"It just took time to mesh," said Goodspeed, 31. "It was a rough start but we worked hard and tried to fix it and I think we've fixed it, for the most serious parts."
FUTURE STAR: One of those new linemates was LaBatte.
"He's been a great player for us and I'm glad we have him," Goodspeed said. "He's obviously going to be a staple guard for a long time in the CFL."
To think there was even talk that LaBatte could return to college out of training camp.
"LaBatte has turned out super for us and was a top candidate for O-lineman as well as Goodspeed," Taman said.
"I'm a little surprised," said the 6-foot-4, 323-pound LaBatte. "It's a real honour."
HELP COMING: Expect the Bombers to welcome a new defensive back sometime this week.