Monday was a historic day for the CFL, as Calgary Stampeders' running back and New Westminster, B.C. native Jon Cornish was named as the winner of the prestigious Lou Marsh Award. The award, named after former athlete, referee and Toronto Star sports editor Marsh (who even played with the Argonauts in the early 1900s), is presented annually to Canada's top athlete (male or female) as determined by a panel with representatives from influential Canadian sports media outlets, but it hasn't been given to a CFL player since legendary Canadian quarterback Russ Jackson won it in 1969. No CFL or NFL player has won it since, and Cornish is just the fourth football player to ever win. It was a surprising enough win that he found out about it while working his regular shift as a banking rep at TD.
However, given that the CFL is lower-profile compared to the NFL, plenty are debating Cornish's merits compared to other potential candidates competing at the highest level of their sport. The other finalists were tennis' Milos Raonic, bobsleigh's Kallie Humphries, decathlon's Damian Warner, figure skating's Patrick Chan and the NHL's Jonathan Toews, captain of the Chicago Blackhawks. Here's some of the Twitter debate that's sprung up in the wake of Cornish winning the award:
Great honour for Jon Cornish and #CFL to win the Lou Marsh. Most dominant Canadian at a skill position since Russ Jackson.
— Chris Cuthbert (@CCtsn) December 9, 2013
The criticism of Jon Cornish winning the Lou Marsh award is ridiculous. Dominant season, rushing title, MOP award. Deserved winner. #CFL
— Dave Campbell (@Dave_CHED) December 9, 2013
I say this because you know nothing about sports if you think a CFL athlete accomplished the most out of any Canadian in sports in 2013 — Chase Ruttig (@TNRSports) December 9, 2013
Jon Cornish fully deserving of Lou Marsh. A dominating 2013. Milos Raonic's time will come. #CFL
— Don Landry (@CFLLandry) December 9, 2013
Terrific to see Jon Cornish win the Lou Marsh Trophy. A once in a lifetime accomplishment for a once in a lifetime season by the Canadian RB
— steve simmons (@simmonssteve) December 9, 2013
From this corner, Cornish is a thoroughly deserving selection, though. He led the league with 1,813 rushing yards this year (215 ahead of second-place Kory Sheets, who did miss some games) while adding 12 rushing touchdowns and maintaining an incredible average of 7.0 yards per carry (better than anyone else with 50 carries or more). For that, he was named the CFL's most outstanding player in November, which was also historic; he became just the third Canadian to take home that honour, following Jackson in 1969 and Ottawa tight end Tony Gabriel in 1978. Cornish and other top non-import players have shown the great improvement in the CFL's Canadian talent, and they've proven that Canadians can excel in positions traditionally reserved for Americans. Winning this award is massively significant for both him and for the CFL, but it's well-deserved.