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A standout in his field

Johnson believes he should first DB to win CFL's top defender award

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/11/2011 (3068 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A defensive back has never won the CFL's Most Outstanding Defensive Player award.

Jovon Johnson began his campaign to change that Wednesday.

Winnipeg ballhawk Jovon Johnson (centre) doesn't need to convince teammate Brandon Stewart he's the best choice for the CFL's defensive player of the year.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg ballhawk Jovon Johnson (centre) doesn't need to convince teammate Brandon Stewart he's the best choice for the CFL's defensive player of the year.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers cornerback is the East nominee for the defensive player honour, beating out Montreal linebacker Chip Cox, Hamilton defensive end Justin Hickman, and Toronto defensive back Lin-J Shell for the right to represent the division.

The 28-year-old, who was selected as the Bombers Most Outstanding Player and Most Outstanding Special Teams Player nominee last week, will now go up against Saskatchewan linebacker Jerrell Freeman for the league award.

"It's crazy, I didn't expect it," Johnson said inside the Bombers locker room Wednesday. "I definitely thought, coming out of the East, that they probably would go with Chip Cox because everyone loves him. For me, it's one of those things: I like to prove everybody wrong and it's just one of those days where I can sit back and say, 'You know, it's about time.'"

He's not there yet, and the tale of the tape between Johnson and Freeman is tight.

In the Blue corner wearing the Gold trunks, Johnson has a CFL-best eight interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) and 55 tackles. Not only that, he's played all three secondary positions this season (cornerback, halfback, safety) and has counted an interception in each of those assignments.

"That's very rare," Johnson points out. "When we've needed a guy to move to different spots, I've been that guy, done everything the team has asked of me and been successful. That's the reason why I feel I should win the award."

In the Green corner sits Freeman, who had a CFL-best 105 tackles, six sacks, four forced fumbles, and three interceptions. Also working in Freeman's favour is this strange fact: No defensive back has ever won the league's top defensive prize.

"Hopefully we can change that," said Johnson, who becomes the first Bomber finalist for the award since 2008 (Doug Brown was runner-up to B.C.'s Cameron Wake). "You would have thought a guy like Less Browne would have had an opportunity, with the amount of interceptions he had in his career that he definitely would have won, but things happen for a reason."

"That's a good question," offered Bombers linebacker Clint Kent, when asked why defensive backs have been passed over in past seasons. "The guys up front get a lot of the attention, maybe because they're closer to the ball."

Snub

Winnipeg head coach Paul LaPolice didn't really have a definitive answer for the annual secondary snub, either, suggesting a defensive back's impact might be overlooked because there are five members back there. LaPolice said it is surprising that given the pass-happy nature of the CFL game there isn't more representation from the defensive back group.

Johnson has a better explanation.

"I don't think we get enough respect for what we do," he said. "I think a lot of people give the credit (to) the guys up front when the defensive backs get an interception. They always overlook the fact that the defensive backs are the ones that cover guys and get sacks for the defensive front."

Linebacker Greg Battle was the last Bomber to win the defensive player award (1990 and 1991).

LOGAN BACK: Bombers safety Ian Logan says he feels great and is looking forward to getting back on the field next week, after having an emergency appendectomy eight days ago.

He originally thought he had the flu on Nov. 1, he told reporters Wednesday, but a quick check of his symptoms on the Internet made him re-think his original diagnosis.

"I could feel it in the lower part of my abdomen. So I went on Web-MD to see the most likely cause," he said. "Wednesday (Nov. 2) when I woke up, I was pretty sure it wasn't the flu. Basically from there, I got the surgery before I talked to anybody."

Logan said the small incisions from the procedure have healed well and believes he could play today.

"I'm not that worried about it. I'm the one that's giving the hits."

adam.wazny@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @wazoowazny

THE SHORT LIST

 

The 2011 CFL Most Outstanding award finalists, announced Wednesday:

 

Most Outstanding Player: Montreal QB Anthony Calvillo vs. B.C. QB Travis Lulay

Most Outstanding Defensive Player: Winnipeg DB Jovon Johnson vs. Saskatchewan LB Jerrell Freeman

Most Outstanding Canadian: Montreal K Sean Whyte vs. Edmonton RB Jerome Messam

Most Outstanding Special Teams Player: Toronto KR Chad Owens vs. B.C. K Paul McCallum

Most Outstanding Rookie: Hamilton WR Chris Williams vs. Edmonton LB JC Sherritt

Most Outstanding Lineman: Montreal OL Josh Bourke vs. B.C. OL Jovan Olafioye

 

The East and West division player nominees were selected by 70 voters, including members of the Football Reporters of Canada (FRC) and CFL head coaches. The winners will be announced at the 2011 Gibson's Finest CFL Player Awards show (Nov. 24) in Vancouver.

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