It seems everyone knew Chad Owens was going to have a big Thursday night, except Chad Owens.
Owens was the East Division nominee for the Most Outstanding Player award at the annual CFL awards. On Wednesday, his competition, Stampeders running back Jon Cornish, admitted he didn't think he would win. And on Thursday night, Owens' son, Chad Jr., admitted he was confident his dad would take home the hardware.
Owens, the Argonauts' star, was indeed named the winner at a ceremony in Toronto. He beat out Cornish, who captured the Most Outstanding Canadian award, and will face Owens in Sunday's Grey Cup.
"It means a lot," Owens said. "It means that hard work, perseverance, dedication, passion — if you do all those things, dreams can come true. Your goals, you can attain them no matter how high or unachievable they may seem.
"You gotta utilize that as motivation to go. I've got plenty of motivation. I just want to go out there and be the best every time I step on the field. You don't play to be second place."
Owens is the first receiver to be named MOP since 2006 when Geroy Simon of the B.C. Lions won the award. But to just call Owens a receiver would be selling him short. The multi-threat player set a CFL record with 3,863 combined yards in 2012.
Cornish, gracious in defeat, recognized that amazing achievement.
"Here's a guy who broke Pinball's record that was not supposed to be broken," he said. "Tremendous season. He's also a great person. He's so respected."
Owens had a remarkable year in more ways than one. On Thursday afternoon, he revealed the long odds he's overcome, even since birth. Four years ago, it seemed his football career might be over altogether.
"Four years ago, I really had no idea what the CFL was," Owens said. "I didn't know anything about it. Each year I get to learn more and more and my heart grows so much every year with love for it."
In November, Owens broke former Argo Michael (Pinball) Clemons' 1997 combined yards record. That Clemons was so happy to see Owens break his record speaks volumes about the athlete and citizen Owens.
Owens has been compared to Clemons all year, especially after breaking his record. It's an apt comparison, and now Owens has an MOP award as well. Clemons won the award in 1990 after putting up 3,300 combined yards.
Owens entered the CFL as a returner but, this year especially, became a receiving threat as well. His 1,328 receiving yards led the CFL in 2012. His bigger and plays different than Clemons' but has put up numbers similar to Clemons' best years. Pinball's record-setting 1997 season was slightly overshadowed by his teammate Doug Flutie, who won the MOP award. But his 1990 MOP season was equally impressive.
Their MOP seasons were similar:
Kick Return Yards
Punt Return Yards
Missed Field-Goal Return Yards
What's was impressive about Clemons' season was that it was just his second in the CFL and he was only 25 years old. Owens is only in his fourth season and is 30. Owens averaged over 214 combined yards per game in 2012, Clemons just over 206.
Owens' accolades didn't end there. He became the first player in pro football history to have three separate 3,000-yard seasons. It was also the third consecutive year he's been nominated for a major CFL award.
It's an impressive run for a guy who the Argonauts acquired in a trade with the Montreal Alouettes for just a fourth-round draft pick. He can cap a great year with a Grey Cup win on Sunday.
Here's a look at the other award winners:
Eskimos' linebacker J.C. Sherrit was named the top defensive player.
Tiger-Cats' receiver/returner Chris Williams was named the best special teams player.
Stampeders' running back Jon Cornish was named Most Outstanding Canadian.
Lions' offensive lineman Jovan Olafioye was named top lineman.
Blue Bombers' receiver Chris Matthews won the rookie of the year award.