Mathieu Betts of the B.C. Lions was named the CFL’s top defensive player Thursday night.
But it was Chad Kelly who took centre stage as a record-setting first season as a CFL starter earned him the league’s outstanding player award during the CFL’s awards banquet at Fallsview Casino & Resort.
Betts, a six-foot-three 250-pound defensive lineman from Montreal, had a CFL-high 18 sacks, which was also the most ever by a Canadian. He also had a career-best 44 tackles (three for a loss), three fumbles and a blocked punt.
He became the sixth Canadian to win the award and first since Calgary’s Alex Singleton in 2017. Linebacker Adarius Pickett of the Toronto Argonauts was the other finalist.
Meanwhile, Kelly received the George Reed Most Outstanding Player Award, which the CFL named after the former Saskatchewan Roughriders’ star who died last month at age 83.
Kelly, 29, was a key figure for the Toronto Argonauts (16-2), who tied the CFL record for most regular-season victories while establishing a franchise best in that category. He won 15 of 16 starts, the 93.8 win percentage being the best in league history by a player with at least 14 starts.
Kelly completed 270 of 394 passes (68.5 per cent) for 4,123 yards with 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also ran for 248 yards and eight TDs — tied for second-most in the CFL — on 40 carries (6.2-yard average).
Kelly, the nephew of former Buffalo Bill star quarterback Jim Kelly, was also a CFL all-star.
With Kelly under centre, Toronto finished second overall in offensive points (29.3 per game), offensive TDs (56) and net yards (377.8) while allowing a league-low 19 sacks.
But the Argos’ season ended with a 38-17 loss to the Montreal Alouettes in the East Division final.
Running back Brady Oliveira of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers was the runner-up for the award, but took solace by being named the CFL’s outstanding Canadian.
The five-foot-10 220-pound Oliveira ran for a CFL-high 1,534 yards (5.9-yard average) with nine TDs in leading Winnipeg (14-4) to first place in the West Division.
The 26-year-old Winnipeg native added 38 catches for 482 yards and four TDs.
Montreal Alouettes safety Marc-Antoine Dequoy was the other finalist.
Voting was conducted by the Football Reporters of Canada and the nine CFL head coaches.
The Bombers and Alouettes meet Sunday in the Grey Cup at Tim Hortons Field.