WINNIPEG — At age 40, Henry Burris is proving he's still got game.
The 16-year veteran quarterback posted a CFL-record 481 completions this year en route to leading the league in passing with 5,703 yards. And it was Burris's 93-yard TD strike to Greg Ellingson late in the fourth quarter of a 35-28 East Division final win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats that propelled the upstart Ottawa Redblacks into the Grey Cup against the Edmonton Eskimos.
This season, Burris had twice as many TD passes (26) as interceptions. Heady stuff considering Burris took plenty of heat in 2014 for having more interceptions (14) than touchdowns (11) as Ottawa mustered just two wins in its inaugural CFL campaign.
Burris received the East Division nomination for the CFL's outstanding player award and will be up against Calgary Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell when the league honours its top individual performers Thursday night.
Mitchell, the MVP of last year's Grey Cup game, enjoyed a solid season. He completed 364-of-555 passes (65.6 per cent) with 26 TDs against 13 interceptions and a 96.8 efficiency rating.
But Burris boasted a better completion average (70.8 per cent) and efficiency rating (101.0) and had a season-high single-game effort of 504 yards, compared to 333 for Mitchell. Burris also had 10 300-yard games this season, four more than Mitchell.
So the expectation is Burris will capture the honour Thursday night.
Here's a look at the other expected award winners:
The finalists are defensive lineman Jamaal Westerman of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Ottawa receiver Brad Sinopoli. Westerman, a native of New York who grew up in Brampton, Ont., finished second overall in sacks (17) with 61 tackles. He was also Winnipeg's pick as outstanding player and defensive player. Sinopoli, a Peterborough, Ont., native, was the CFL's top Canadian receiver with 1,035 yards on 86 receptions with a league-high 471 yards after the catch.
Who should win: Westerman.
Outstanding Defensive Player.
The finalists are linebackers Adam Bighill of the B.C. Lions and Simoni Lawrence of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Bighill recorded a CFL- and career-high 117 tackles this season. The five-foot-10 230-pound linebacker also had four sacks, an interception and fumble recovery. The six-foot-one 228-pound Lawrence recorded career highs in tackles (80) and sacks (five) while adding two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble.
Who should win: Bighill.
The finalists are B.C.'s Jovan Olafioye and Ottawa's SirVincent Rogers. This is the six-foot-six 325-pound Olafioye's third top nomination, winning in 2012. The 27-year-old Detroit native anchored the Lions' offensive line that allowed just 34 sacks, one behind league leaders Montreal and Calgary. Rogers is completing his first season in Ottawa after signing as a free agent. The six-foot-four 319-pound Texan started all 18 regular-season games at left tackle, protecting Burris's blind side.
Who should win: Olafioye.
Outstanding Special-Teams Player.
The finalists are Calgary Stampeders kicker Rene Paredes and Hamilton kick-returner Brandon Banks. Parades made 41-of-47 field goals (87.2 per cent) and was the CFL's second-leading scorer with 156 points. The league's top special-teams player in 2013, Paredes is looking to become just the second player to win the honour twice. Banks had four punt-return TDs, one shy of the league mark. The five-foot-seven 153-pound dynamo was third overall in all-purpose yards (2,073) and punt return yards (930) and became the first CFL player to return a missed convert for a score.
Who should win: Banks.
The finalists are receivers Derel Walker of the Edmonton Eskimos and Vidal Hazelton of the Toronto Argonauts. Walker had 89 catches (Edmonton rookie record) for 1,110 yards and six TDs despite playing only 12 games (10 starts). Hazelton led all Toronto receivers with 70 catches for 803 yards and six touchdowns.
Who should win: Walker.
Coach of The Year
The finalists are Ottawa's Rick Campbell and Edmonton's Chris Jones. The Redblacks finished atop the East Division with a 12-6 record after winning just twice in Campbell's first season as head coach. The Eskimos were tied with Calgary for the league's best mark of 14-4 but secured top spot in the West after winning the season series. Edmonton certainly improved in Jones's second year but it's hard to overlook Campbell's 10-win improvement.
Who should win: Campbell.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press