Timmis named Player of the Year as Dinos dominate awards


November 7, 2013, EDMONTON (ISN) – Calgary was a perfect 8-0 during the conference football season and the talent level of the CIS #3 team was reflected when Canada West hardware was handed out on Thursday.


EDMONTON – University of Calgary was a perfect 8-0 during the conference football season and the talent level of the nation’s third-ranked team was reflected when 2013 Canada West hardware was handed out on Thursday, where the Dinos won five of six annual awards.

Second-year University of Calgary Dinos running back Mercer Timmis is Canada West’s nominee for the Hec Crighton Trophy as the Most Valuable Player in Canadian university football.

The Burlington, Ont. native is the second straight Dino and fourth in the last six years to capture the Frank Gnup Memorial Trophy as the conference’s MVP, following in the footsteps of teammate Eric Dzwilewski, the 2012 recipient.

There was certainly no sophomore jinx for Timmis. Taking over from Steven Lumbala as the Dinos’ feature back, he ran through opposing defences for 1,157 yards this season, leading the nation in rushing. Along the way, he found the end zone 19 times, 18 of which were rushing touchdowns – both new Canada West records. The previous mark of 17 all-purpose majors in a season was held by Dinos legend Don Blair, who captured the Hec Crighton Trophy in the program’s last Vanier Cup season, 1995. No other player in the nation recorded more than 12 majors on the season.

With 114 points, he became the first non-kicker to lead the conference in scoring since UBC’s Chris Ciezki in 2006 and tied teammate Johnny Mark (2012) and former Manitoba kicker Jamie Boreham (2001) for the conference single-season scoring record.

Timmis averaged 6.9 yards per carry and 144.6 yards per game along the ground, with his best carry of the season coming late in a game at Saskatchewan when he weaved through the Huskies defence for an 80-yard score that sealed the game for the Dinos, helping them achieve their first-ever 8-0 record in the regular season. He went on to carry the ball 32 times for 164 yards and two touchdowns in Calgary’s 42-28 semifinal win over UBC last Saturday.

He led the nation in total rushing yards, rushing yards per game, and touchdowns and was second in total carries with 167.

“Mercer is the latest in a long succession of All-Canadian-calibre running backs at the University of Calgary,” said Dinos head coach Blake Nill. “He’s an outstanding downhill runner who runs with tremendous power and has the ability to make the tough yards when necessary.”

Timmis is the 11th Dino in history to be named the conference’s MVP, joining former running backs Elio Geremia (1985), Craig Kittelson (1991 and 1992), Dean Fisher (2000), and Matt Walter (2008). Calgary players have won the Hec Crighton trophy three times: Greg Vavra (1983), Blair (1995), and Erik Glavic (2009).

The Dinos’ recent run of success with the top freshman in the conference continues as receiver Rashaun Simonise earned Rookie of the Year.

Simonise is the sixth Dinos player in Nill’s eight-year run as head coach to win the top freshman honour in the conference, joining teammates Brett Blaszko (2012) and Eric Dzwilewski (2010) in receiving the award.

The lanky 6-foot-5, 190-pound receiver, a graduate of Vancouver College in Vancouver, B.C., made an immediate impact with the Dinos. Playing all eight games, he finished tied for the team lead in receptions with 33 and was second in receiving yards with 481, adding his first career touchdown in Week 4 against the Manitoba Bisons. His best outing came in Edmonton during Calgary’s 76-21 win over Alberta, where Simonise hauled in 10 passes for 162 yards.

In addition to his receiving prowess, the speedster was Calgary’s leading punt and kick returner and finished second on the team – and seventh in the conference – with 788 all-purpose yards, an average of 98.5 per game. The only Dino to beat him in total yards was conference MVP Mercer Timmis.

“We feel very fortunate to have Rashaun in the Dinos program this year,” said Nill. “His tremendous size and speed provide isolation opportunities for us, and he has also proven to be a very capable kick returner.”

Simonise is the 12th Dino in history to be named Canada West rookie of the year and will look to become the fifth Calgary player to capture the Peter Gorman award as the nation’s top freshman. Other Dinos to win the CIS honour include Dzwilewski (2010), Linden Gaydosh (2009), Dalin Tollestrup (2006), and Gord Goodwin (1977).

In just his first season in Canada West, UBC Thunderbirds defensive lineman, Rookie of the Year Donovan Dale, was a force to be reckoned with. Standing 6-1, 275 points, the Saskatoon, Sask. product quickly made a name for himself as one of the premiere down linemen in the conference, forcing opposing teams to take notice and regularly double-team him.

He ranked second in the conference in sacks (five) and tackles for a loss (7.5) and finished with 23.5 total tackles, 16 of which were solo tackles.

A kinesiology student, Dale was a huge reason why the Thunderbirds went from one of the weakest defences in 2012 to the number-one defence in 2013 with regards to total yardage allowed per game. He and the ‘Birds defence also finished second in the conference with 21 sacks.

“Donovan Dale has been a dominant force this year for us on the defensive line,” said UBC head coach Shawn Olson. “In all eight games, he has been a disruptive force in the middle of the top defence in the Canada West. He exemplifies everything a UBC football player is and was the obvious choice in my eyes as the Canada West nominee for the J.P. Metras Trophy.”

Calgary’s stranglehold on the conference Defensive Player of the Year award continues in 2013 with linebacker Doctor Cassama earning the honour.

It’s a familiar refrain for the Dinos. Cassama moved to linebacker after beginning his career at defensive back and won the defensive MVP award in the process, joining former teammates Sam Hurl (2010, 2011) and Mike Edem (2012) – both of whom are full-time CFLers – in making that jump and earning that honour. Including Andrea Bonaventura’s 2008 selection, the Dinos have now have five of the last six Canada West nominees for the CIS Presidents’ Award.

Born in Gambia, Cassama grew up in Kristianstad, Sweden and joined the Dinos in 2010. After making the move to weak-side linebacker this season, replacing the departed Edem, he led the Dinos with 36 tackles (30 solo, 12 assisted) on the year, an average of 4.5 per game. Of those, 6.5 were tackles for loss, and he added a sack to his stats line as well.

He played a key role in Calgary’s 3-4 defensive scheme, providing match-up headaches for opposing teams and helping the Dinos lead the conference in points allowed (22.9 per game) and rushing yards allowed (127.6 yards per game).

“Doc follows current CFLers Sam Hurl and Mike Edem moving from halfback to linebacker,” said Nill. “He has outstanding coverage skills at that position, but his strength is playing in the box where he can utilize his devastating contact skills.”

Cassama’s selection marks the seventh time a University of Calgary player has captured the defensive MVP award in the conference. In addition to Edem, Hurl, and Bonaventura, Canada West also honoured Darcy Kopp (1985) and Wade Buteau (1983). Kopp is the only Dino to win the national defensive MVP award.

Third-year quarterback Andrew Buckley was the unanimous selection of the conference’s eight coaches as the Canada West nominee for the Russ Jackson Award given to the Top Student-Athlete.

The honour, named in honour of legendary Canadian football Russ Jackson, recognizes the player who best exhibits outstanding achievement in athletic ability, academic achievement, and citizenship – and Buckley is a most deserving selection in all three areas.

On the field, the graduate of Calgary’s Rundle College took over as the Dinos’ starting quarterback late in their first game of the season after starter Eric Dzwilewski broke his foot. The Dinos barely skipped a beat with Buckley at the controls, cruising to their first-ever 8-0 record and a berth in the Hardy Cup for the sixth consecutive year. Buckley finished second in the conference in passing efficiency (150), completing 62.1 per cent of his passes (149 of 240). He threw for 2,184 yards – only two fewer than 2009 Hec Crighton winner Erik Glavic – and 12 touchdowns on the year, and he was the CIS offensive player of the week after throwing for 512 yards and three majors in Week 4 against the Manitoba Bisons. He added 30 carries for 221 yards and four rushing touchdowns on the season and earned conference all-star selection at quarterback – and all this starting only seven games and entering the season as the backup.

In the classroom, Buckley is a two-time Academic All-Canadian with a career GPA of 3.93 in kinesiology. In the 2012-13 academic year, he was one of four University of Calgary scholar-athlete award winners. He has plans to follow in his father’s footsteps and enter medical school following his undergraduate work. He has received numerous academic awards in his career, including a University of Calgary President’s Admission Scholarship and Undergraduate Merit Award. Buckley is actively involved in many research projects with his undergraduate work, most recently making a presentation as part of the Faculty of Kinesiology’s Markin Undergraduate Student Research Program in October 2013 – right in the middle of football season.

Away from the field and the classroom, Buckley is also heavily involved in the community. In 2011 he joined a group that travelled to Guatemala to build 500 efficient wood-burning stoves for impoverished families with the Hearts and Hands Foundation. In 2012 he led the organization of a Dinos football camp for underprivileged and foster children of Sudanese decent in the Calgary area. He also remains actively involved volunteering for various senior citizens’ organizations, helping organize a socialization program and sports club at the Colonel Belcher seniors’ residence in Calgary. He is also a home care volunteer with Alberta Health Services, working with two Alzheimer’s patients for 90 minutes per week, helping them with exercise and mental stimulation and providing relief to their full-time caregivers.

“Stepping in for Eric Dzwilewski, Andrew has led the Dinos offence without missing a beat,” said Nill. “He is a tremendous leader and has had an amazing year given the circumstances. Andrew exemplifies the true meaning of the Russ Jackson Award with his football skills, his academic success, and most impressively, his involvement in the community.”

Buckley is the first Dino to win the conference nomination for the Russ Jackson Award since Mike MacDonald in 2003. Elio Geremia (1987) and Lincoln Blumell (2002) are the two previous national winners in University of Calgary history.

For the second year in a row and the third time in his career, Blake Nill of the University of Calgary Dinos is the Canada West Coach of the Year.

It was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the five-time defending conference champions as Nill entered his eighth season with the program.

The Dinos lost literally half their roster from the 2012 Mitchell Bowl to graduation and the professional ranks – including 10 of 12 starters on defence – and had to deal with the sudden and tragic death of 19-year-old defensive lineman Daniel Lamola during spring camp in May. To add to the difficulty, the team lost the 2012 conference MVP, quarterback Eric Dzwilewski, to a broken foot in the first game of the season at UBC.

Despite it all, however, Nill and his staff guided the Dinos to the top offence in the conference at nearly 550 yards and 42.4 points per game, while the defence led the conference in points and rushing yards allowed as the Dinos finished 8-0 on the field for the first time in history. Additionally, 10 of his players earned conference all-star awards, and the Dinos also brought home four of the five major player awards. Saturday, they will have the chance to add to their unprecedented streak of five consecutive Hardy Cup championships.

“I can’t say enough about the job Blake and his staff have done this season,” said University of Calgary Athletic Director Ron Wuotila. “They have created a culture of success in the program that resulted in our first-ever undefeated season, despite huge losses to graduation and the professional ranks. Blake is a mentor to the young men on the team, and the University of Calgary is proud to have him leading our football program.”

The Dinos take on the University of Manitoba Bisons Saturday at McMahon Stadium, looking for their sixth consecutive Canada West title. Kickoff of the 77th Hardy Cup goes at 2 p.m. MT, live on Shaw TV and http://canadawest.TV

The winner of the 77th Hardy Cup will host the OUA champion on November 16th at 2:00 p.m. MT in the Mitchell Bowl.


(*unanimous selection)

  • Hec Crighton Player of the Year nominee / Frank Gnup Memorial Trophy: Mercer Timmis, Calgary
  • Peter Gorman Rookie of the Year nominee: Rashaun Simonise, Calgary
  • John Metras Outstanding Lineman nominee: Donovan Dale, UBC
  • President’s Award Outstanding Defensive Player nominee: Doctor Cassama, Calgary
  • Russ Jackson Outstanding Student-Athlete nominee: *Andrew Buckley, Calgary
  • Frank Tindall Trophy nominee / Coach of the Year: Blake Nill, Calgary

Winners are now finalists for the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) awards to be handed out Thursday, Nov. 21 in Quebec City as part of 49th Vanier Cup week. The Vanier Cup game will be played on November 23rd at Stade TELUS on the Université Laval campus.