The Canadian Football League announced Thursday that five Hamilton Tiger-Cats are East Division nominees for 2019 CFL Awards, including wide receiver Brandon Banks for Most Outstanding Player, linebacker Simoni Lawrence for Most Outstanding Defensive Player, offensive lineman Chris Van Zeyl for Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman, defensive back/kick returner Frankie Williams for Most Outstanding Special Teams Player, and head coach Orlondo Steinauer for CFL Coach of the Year.
EAST DIVISION’S MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER – Brandon Banks – WR
Banks, 31, started 16 games at wide receiver for the Tiger-Cats in 2019 and set career highs while leading the CFL in all major receiving categories, including receptions (112), yards (1,550) and touchdowns (13), as well as targets (158). His 112 receptions also set a Tiger-Cats’ single-season franchise record. He was named a divisional all-star for the sixth consecutive season (2014-19), earning the nod for the third time as a wide receiver after three-straight as a kick returner.
The 5-7, 150-pound native of Garner, North Carolina also recorded 13 carries for 56 yards and one rushing touchdown, 13 punt returns for 140 yards, and five missed field goal returns for 283 yards and two touchdowns. Overall, Banks registered 16 total touchdowns this season, just one shy of Chris Williams’ franchise record of 17 set in 2012. He now holds the CFL record with five-career missed field goal return touchdowns, and became Hamilton’s all-time punt return yardage leader (2,954) while also moving into second in franchise history behind Earl Winfield in both total touchdowns (60) and combined yards (12,959). Winfield had 87 career touchdowns and 14,798 combined yards as a Tiger-Cat.
EAST DIVISION’S MOST OUTSTANDING DEFENSIVE PLAYER – Simoni Lawrence – LB
Lawrence, 30, started 15 games at linebacker for the Tiger-Cats this season and led the CFL in defensive tackles (98) and defensive plays made (117), while tying a career high with three interceptions and adding four quarterback sacks, seven pass knock downs, one fumble recovery and four tackles for loss. The University of Minnesota product earned his fourth East Division All-Star selection (2014, 15, 16, 19) and was named Hamilton’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player for the third time in his career (2014, 15, 19). He set a CFL single-game record in Week 16 at Winnipeg with 17 defensive tackles (Reggie Hunt – 16) against the Blue Bombers and was named the CFL Top Performer of the Week.
The 6-1, 231-pound native of Upper Darby, Pennsylvania anchored a Tiger-Cats’ defensive unit that allowed a league-low and franchise record 344 points against and just 33 touchdowns in 2019. Lawrence also now holds the Tiger-Cats’ franchise record with 533 career defensive tackles after surpassing Rob Hitchcock (484) earlier this season, and sits second behind Hitchcock (606) in total tackles with 551.
EAST DIVISION’S MOST OUTSTANDING OFFENSIVE LINEMAN – Chris Van Zeyl – OT
Van Zeyl, 36, started 16 games at right tackle for the Tiger-Cats in his first season in Hamilton after 11 years with the Toronto Argonauts (2009-18). The 6-6, 312-pound native of Fonthill, Ontario earned his sixth divisional all-star honours (2013, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19) this season. Van Zeyl anchored an offensive line that helped Hamilton post league-leading rankings in 2019 in offensive points for (508), offensive points per game (28.2), offensive touchdowns (50), net offence (7,125 yards), net offence per game (395.8 yards), second down conversion percentage (tie-50.5%), average yards per play (6.84), first downs (398), passing yards (5,639), passing yards per game (313.3), average gain per pass (9.0 yards) and 30+ yard pass gains (31).
EAST DIVISION’S MOST OUTSTANDING SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER – Frankie Williams – DB/KR
Williams, 26, ranked among CFL leaders in numerous kick return categories in 2019, including first in punt return yardage (949), 30+ yard punt returns (10), average yards per kickoff return (24.9) and kickoff return touchdowns (tie-1), second in punt return touchdowns (tie-1) and overall kick return touchdowns (tie-2), and third in average yards per punt return (12.5) and kickoff return yardage (1,071). The 5-9, 190-pound native of Tampa, Florida finished fourth in the CFL in combined yards (2,020) and was the only player without a single yard from scrimmage in the top 10 in that category.
Williams, who also started at defensive back in 16 of his 17 appearances (15 at field corner, one at boundary halfback) for the Tiger-Cats this season, finished second in the CFL in pass knockdowns with 14, and added 50 defensive tackles, one interception and one fumble recovery.
EAST DIVISION’S COACH OF THE YEAR – Orlondo Steinauer
Steinauer, 46, tied a CFL record for a first-year head coach with 15 wins (Dave Dickenson – CGY – 2016) and led the Tiger-Cats to a franchise-best 15-3 record, including six consecutive wins to close out the 2019 season. The 15 wins were three more than the club’s previous franchise high of 12 (1989 & 1998) and also tied an all-time CFL record for wins by an East Division team in a single season. The Tiger-Cats also went 9-0 at home for the first time in franchise history.
The Seattle, Washington native took over an 8-win Tiger-Cats team and saw them improve by seven wins, finishing first overall in the CFL standings for the first time since 1998 and first in the East Division for the first time since 2014. Steinauer’s team also topped the league in points for (551) while allowing the least points against (344) this season. The 344 points allowed were the fewest in franchise history for an 18-game season, while the 551 points scored were second to only the 1999 team that tallied 603.
The Most Outstanding Player awards, which include six categories, were decided by voting members of the Football Reporters of Canada (FRC) and head coaches from across the league. Voters were asked to select players from their local CFL division who, through their on-field performance excellence, best represents the awards’ titles: Most Outstanding Player, Most Outstanding Canadian Player, Most Outstanding Defensive Player, Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman, Most Outstanding Rookie, and Most Outstanding Special Teams Player. Voters were also asked to select the Coach of the Year candidates.
The 2019 CFL Awards will take place Thursday, November 21 in Calgary, Alberta at Scotiabank Saddledome. Saskatchewan’s Cody Fajardo (MOP) and Craig Dickenson (coach), and Winnipeg’s Willie Jefferson (defensive), Stanley Bryant (offensive lineman) and Mike Miller (special teams) are the West Division’s nominees in Banks, Lawrence, Van Zeyl, Williams and Steinauer’s respective categories.