Huge-play Hefney

Rookie defensive back Jonathan Hefney has had a tremendous season for the Bombers and is a strong...

Rookie defensive back Jonathan Hefney has had a tremendous season for the Bombers and is a strong contender for the rookie of the year nomination in the East Division. (Brian Donogh/Sun Media)

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 3:40 AM ET

It is only the youngster's first season of three-down football and he has had to learn one of the toughest defensive positions to play on the fly.

But his Winnipeg teammates already refer to import defensive back Jonathan Hefney as a sparkplug and he is the odds-on favourite to be named the Blue Bombers rookie of the year.

In fact, Hefney could even become the nominee as top rookie of the CFL East.

"He's standing out," Winnipeg defensive tackle Dorian Smith, who has also had a solid rookie campaign, said yesterday. "He's having an amazing season. He's had so many huge plays and he's a sparkplug in our locker-room, you know what I mean? He's funny and he's never going to stop talking so, I'd definitely give it to him right there.

"I think he might win it for the league if he keeps it up -- he's playing well on defence and special teams."

Hefney, 24, leads the club with 10 pass knockdowns, is tied for third with four interceptions and is fourth in defensive tackles (61). He even has eight kickoff returns for 162 yards.

"He plays the short-side halfback and normally, you're lining up against the team's best slot there," said Bomber head coach Mike Kelly. "He's played extremely well, with great energy, and has been tremendous in run support. His coverage skills have been very good. Very few times have you seen him get beaten over the top and playing in tandem with (cornerback) Jovon Johnson over there, they have really fed off each other."

Assuming Hefney is named the club's top rookie, his biggest challenge in the East will likely come from Hamilton running back DeAndra' Cobb.

"I just go out there and make as many plays as I can for everybody, for the whole team," said Hefney, a 5-foot-9, 190-pound Tennessee product. "If I get rookie of the year, I'd be happy to have it but we still have to focus on the job at hand, like the playoffs that we want to get to."

Still, he has been pleased with his first CFL campaign.

"I just came in focused this year and luckily, everything's been going the perfect way for me," Hefney said. "Hopefully, we can get some more wins. I'm not really worried about how I'm doing by myself. It's more of a team thing. But just the fact that I'm doing so well comes from hard work."

Hefney also credited his teammates for helping him out, particularly defensive backs Lenny Walls, Keyuo Craver and Johnson, and linebacker Ike Charlton.

"You've got to learn from those guys and that's what I do," said Hefney, who rooms with Johnson.

Key blocks

Hefney has also thrown some key blocks to break Johnson loose for some impressive kick returns, including two for touchdowns.

"They'll be moaning and groaning at each other if it doesn't happen," Kelly said. "They want to see each other do well but they're also competing against each other. And it's kind of a fun thing to watch."

Should Hefney get the nod as top rookie in the CFL East, there is an outside chance he could be up against Edmonton running back Arkee Whitlock, the unrelated man he calls a brother because they grew up in the same home.

"Hopefully, he gets it," Hefney said. "That would be a good thing for him and we would have something to talk about when we get home. If we both get it, I'd be excited for him also."

Smith may have conceded the nomination to Hefney but he is also pleased with his own year.

"I am very happy with my own season," said Smith, who leads the club with seven quarterback sacks. "But I'm kind of tough on myself because I always want to do better."

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca


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