Mac’s Quinlan in the running for top CIS honour

McMaster Marauder quarterback Kyle Quinlan is one of three finalists for the Canadian Interuniversity Sport’s male athlete of the year.

Quinlan’s nomination for the Doug Mitchell Trophy was included with a total of eight finalists announced Wednesday for the 20th Annual BLG (Borden Ladner Gervais) Awards, which recognize the CIS male and female athletes of the year.

Joining Quinlan are Acadia University hockey player Andrew Clark of Brandon, Man.; Trinity Western University volleyball player Ben Ball of Abbottsford, B.C.; and McGill University hockey player Marc-André Dorion of St. Hubert, Que.

The 2012 nominees for the Jim Thompson Trophy presented to the female BLG Award are Tyson Beukeboom of Uxbridge, Ont., a rugby player from St. Francis Xavier University; Ann-Sophie Bettez of Sept-Iles, Que., a hockey player from McGill University; Jacey Murphy of Alliston, Ont., a rugby player from the University of Guelph; and Robyn Pendleton of Victoria, a field hockey player from the University of British Columbia.

The BLG Awards, which were established in 1993 to recognize the top female and male athletes from universities affiliated with CIS, will be presented on April 30. The winners receive $10,000 post-graduate scholarships.

The BLG Awards are based on athletic accomplishments, outstanding sportsmanship and leadership. Each of the 52 CIS schools selects one female and one male athlete of the year. From these nominees, one female and one male athlete are chosen within each of the four regional associations: Atlantic University Sport (AUS), Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ), Ontario University Athletics (OUA) and Canada West Universities Athletic Association (CWUAA). To be eligible, a student-athlete must have competed in a CIS sport for a minimum of two years and cannot be a previous recipient of a BLG Award.

All nominees receive a commemorative gold ring. Winners are selected by the Canadian Athletic Foundation, a not-for-profit board established for the purpose of administering the BLG Awards and protecting the integrity of the selection process. The CAF Board of Trustees consists of 21 members from five Canadian cities representing major corporations from across the country who are committed to ensuring that Canadian university athletes receive the recognition they deserve.

It has been said that big players must come up big in big games. It’s safe to say McMaster’s Quinlan got the memo last November.

Following a suspension-shortened regular season, the fourth-year pivot from South Woodslee, Ont., went on one of the greatest playoff runs in recent memory to lead the Marauders to their first-ever CIS football national championship. Over four post-season contests, Quinlan averaged 335 yards passing and another 92.5 on the ground, threw for 11 touchdown passes and guided his troops to four straight 40-plus-point performances as McMaster defeated Queen’s 40-13 (OUA semifinal), Western 41-19 (Yates Cup), Acadia 45-21 (Uteck Bowl) and Laval 41-38 in overtime (Vanier Cup). The 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior earned game-MVP honours following each of the last three duels of the campaign.

Of course, the Cinderella story wouldn’t have been totally complete had Quinlan not kept his best for last. On Nov. 25 at Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium, in what is widely regarded as one of the greatest CIS football games ever played, the economics student racked up 482 yards and two majors on 36-of-55 passing while also rushing for a team-high 106 yards as McMaster handed the powerful Rouge et Or their first loss in seven lifetime appearances in the Vanier Cup final. The Marauders tied the single-game record with 41 first downs, while their 675 yards of total offence and 25 first downs through the air rank second in Vanier Cup history.

As dominant as Quinlan was in the playoffs, it would be inaccurate to say his remarkable performances came out of nowhere. After all, despite being limited to five outings in conference play, he was named to the second all-Canadian team after he averaged a CIS-best 342 passing yards per game.

While he still has one year of CIS eligibility remaining, there is little doubt the talented QB is on the radar screen of a number of professional teams heading into the 2012 CFL Draft. He has participated in the last two CFL Evaluation Camps and was invited to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ training camp last summer.

“No athlete that I have watched over the years has developed more physically, mentally, socially and emotionally in such a short period of time than Kyle Quinlan during the 2011 football season,” says McMaster head coach Stefan Ptaszek. “In my humble opinion, it was one of the best seasons any player has had in the history of our football program.”

Three other Marauders have won the CIS award. Basketball player Titus Channer took it in 1997-98; football player Kojo Aidoo was the 2000-01 recipient; and football player Jesse Lumsden was the winner in 2004-05.