November 25, 2011
The best-dressed man at Grey Cup week is also the best defensive player in the CFL.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive back Jovon Johnson capped a career year by being named the CFL's Most Outstanding Defensive Player at the awards banquet on Thursday night.
If Johnson didn't already stand out for his league-leading eight interceptions, he made sure he stood out at the Bombers' team breakfast when he wore a bow tie and gold vest (above).
Sharply dressed again Thursday night in a tuxedo, he promised he had a special outfit in store for Sunday night should the Bombers win the Cup.
"I have something in the works," he said. "I just have to go and find the right shoes in Vancouver."
Johnson is as charismatic as they come, but was gracious and humble when acknowledging the role former assistant coach Richard Harris played in his development and success. Harris passed away earlier this season after collapsing in his office at the stadium.
"I always think of Coach Harris. He's the reason why I stayed in Winnipeg when my contract was up in '09. He was the main reason I decided to stay, knowing that he was going to be the only coach left from that year's coaching staff. I talked to him numerous times and he's definitely part of this for me.
"He'd definitely give me one of those big Coach Harris hugs and tell me 'Congratulations, well deserved.'"
The Bombers have been honouring Harris throughout the year, but the ultimate tribute to their popular coach would be to win on Sunday.
"We want to go out there and do it for Coach Harris. And each member of our team expects to go out there and give it their all and play the best game we can possibly play."
Johnson also became the first defensive back to win the award, which has traditionally been reserved for linebackers and defensive ends.
"It's definitely special [to be the first DB]. I can be talked about now forever.
"As a player who always heard I was too small, heard I wasn't fast enough, this is one of those moments I can forget about everybody who thought I wasn't worth it."
He also broke a long drought for the Blue Bombers. The last Bomber to be named top defensive player was linebacker Greg Battle in 1991.
"This organization is built around so many great players," Johnson said. "To say I'm only the second in the last 20 years to win this award is surprising to me. The guys who came before me had tremendous careers and were never given this award. It says a lot about how tough it is to win anything in this league."
Earlier in the day Johnson told reporters that he sold the Grey Cup ring he won with the 2007 Roughriders on eBay, but he's hoping to win one he can keep. After his win Thursday night, he's got one of the two awards he came for.
"One trophy down, and I look forward to going out Sunday and doing what I can for my team and hopefully hoisting the Grey Cup."
The other big winner of the night was the man Johnson will be in charge of slowing down on Sunday — B.C. Lions quarterback Travis Lulay took home the Most Outstanding Player award. He beat out two-time winner Anthony Calvillo of the Montreal Alouettes.
Lulay passed for 4,815 yards and a league-leading 32 touchdowns in his first full season as a starting quarterback. His teammate, kicker Paul McCallum, took home the Outstanding Special Teams Player award.
For the full list of award winners and a breakdown of their accomplishments, click here.