Alberta RB Ed Ilnicki named U Sports’ most outstanding player

Ed Ilnicki of the University of Alberta accepts the Hec Crighton Trophy. (Aaron Lynett/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

HAMILTON — University of Alberta running back Ed Ilnicki won the Hec Crighton Trophy as the top player in Canadian varsity football on Thursday as U Sports announced its year-end awards.

Ilnicki, a five-foot-10, 220-pound running back from Spruce Grove, Alta., set a single-season Canada West record with 1,468 rushing yards. He also led U Sports in rushing touchdowns (11) and carries (196) as he helped the Golden Bears reach the post-season for the first time since 2010.

He is the first non-quarterback to win U Sports’ most outstanding player award since Windsor running back Daryl Stephenson in 2006.

"Ed embodies everything that is good about university athletics," Alberta head coach Chris Morris said. "He is a true scholar and has been a four-time Academic All-Canadian. He’s been a dominating and relentless competitor, who in 2017 ran for more yards than anyone in Canada West history. He is a young man of impeccable character who tirelessly serves his team and community."

Wilfrid Laurier receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr., Laval quarterback Hugo Richard and Acadia running back Dale Wright were the other finalists.

While Richard lost out in the Hec Crighton Trophy, Laval was well represented at Thursday’s awards ceremony. Rouge et Or linebacker Adam Auclair was named the defensive player of the year, while teammate Mathieu Betts was voted the outstanding down lineman for the second straight season.

Regina linebacker Nick Cross took top rookie honours, Western linebacker Nick Vanin claimed the Russ Jackson Award recognizing excellence in football, academics and citizenship, and Acadia’s Jeff Cummins was selected coach of the year for the second time in his career.

The U Sports football season ends Saturday, when Laval and Western meet in the Vanier Cup at Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field.

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