Johnson is Mr. Outstanding

Bombers’ outstanding player nominees defensive back Jonathan Hefney (front, left) and cornerback...

Bombers’ outstanding player nominees defensive back Jonathan Hefney (front, left) and cornerback Jovon Johnson (front, right), defensive tackle Doug Brown (back, left) and offensive lineman Brendon LaBatte (back, right). (Brian Donogh, Sun Media)

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers ended up getting something good out of their 2007 Grey Cup loss after all.

It was Jovon Johnson.

The shutdown cornerback and dazzling kick returner, whom the Saskatchewan Roughriders punted after their Grey Cup win over Winnipeg two years ago, was named the Bombers' most outstanding player and top special teams player yesterday.

Johnson is the first defensive back in more than 30 years to be named Winnipeg's top player, although his special-teams heroics no doubt entered into the minds of the seven members of the local Football Reporters of Canada chapter who voted for the winners.

"I've never received such a prestigious award," Johnson said. "I've never been on a team where I've been valued as much.

"Every team that I've ever been on, it was either linebacker, running back, sometimes a receiver. It's a prestigious award, and I'm blessed to be in this situation."

Defensive tackle Doug Brown was also a double winner yesterday, named Winnipeg's most outstanding defensive and Canadian player. He is the team's top Canuck for the seventh time in the last nine seasons. It's his second consecutive defensive honour and third overall.

Defensive halfback Jonathan Hefney was voted the team's top rookie, while left guard Brendon LaBatte was deemed the squad's top offensive lineman.

The Bombers winners will now move on to the next round of voting, where they will go up against their fellow East Division nominees.

For someone whose primary role is to play cornerback, Johnson sure scores a lot. He returned one of his team-leading six interceptions 73 yards for a touchdown, and he also has a pair of special teams scores: a 118-yard missed field goal return and a 79-yard punt return.

And if it weren't for a series of events that occurred one province over in October and November 2007, Johnson would more than likely be plying his trade in Regina right now.

First, the Erie, Pa., native was frustrated about not getting into the lineup immediately upon his arrival in Regina.

Second, then Riders head coach Kent Austin chewed him out in front of the entire team during a late-season practice because he thought Johnson had disrespected him.

Third, according to a CFL source who was with the Riders in 2007, Johnson missed curfew the night before Saskatchewan's 23-19 win over Winnipeg in the Grey Cup. Even though he was on the practice roster and not playing, but he was still expected to follow team rules.

The curfew incident was the straw that broke the camel's back with Austin. Johnson was released -- reluctantly -- and he reappeared in Winnipeg six months later.

After recording three interceptions (two of them for touchdowns) in 2008, Johnson returned to the Manitoba capital this year just looking for a chance under the new regime.

"I came back knowing that I was wanted, because a lot of the defensive backs that were here last year with me didn't get the chance to return," Johnson said. "That just motivated me even more to be successful."

Bombers head coach Mike Kelly admitted he had no idea what he was going to get from the former University of Iowa Hawkeyes standout.

"He was kind of on the scrap heap," Kelly said. "He was here, but nobody knew anything about him. He had been in Saskatchewan and let go, and then here he was what we term a JAG -- just a guy -- and nobody was really paying any attention to him.

"Given the opportunity, it's to his credit that he took advantage of his opportunity when it was presented to him."

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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