Western gridiron stars took top honours for their work on the field and on the sidelines, as Mustangs quarterback Chris Merchant and Head Coach Greg Marshall were named the nation’s best at their positions.
Merchant wrapped up his collegiate career being named the 2019 winner of the Hec Crighton Trophy as Canada’s most outstanding player in U SPORTS football while Marshall was recognized with the Frank Tindall Trophy as Coach of the Year, at the annual year-end Vanier Cup awards gala in Laval, Quebec.
“Chris has had an outstanding season and career as our quarterback at Western,” Marshall said. “He really is the ideal of what we want in our U SPORTS student-athletes. His work ethic and competitive spirit has been an inspiration to our team. His record as our starting quarterback is an incredible 39-3. He is truly deserving of this award and will go down as one of the best student-athletes to ever play at Western.”
Merchant was a constant presence throughout Western’s undefeated regular season, the third consecutive year the Mustangs have accomplished that feat. He was the very definition of a dual threat with his ability to beat defences both through the air or with his legs. Merchant completed 159 of 232 pass attempts this season (68.5 per cent) for 2,378 yards and 14 touchdowns. But he was just as dangerous when he called his own number, rushing the ball a career-high 77 times for another 438 yards and six majors.
Merchant adds Hec Crighton Trophy winner to a list of accomplishments that includes OUA MVP (2019), second team OUA all-star in 2018, the Dalt White Trophy as Yates Cup MVP and Mitchell Bowl MVP (both in 2018), and winning the Ted Morris Memorial Trophy as Vanier Cup MVP (2017).
Only the sixth Mustang to win the most prestigious award in Canadian university football, Merchant joins Jamie Bone (1978), Greg Marshall (1980), Blake Marshall (1986), Tim Tindale (1991,1993) and Andy Fantuz (2005).
Meanwhile, Marshall picks up Coach of the Year for the second straight season, and the third time in his career. It is the first time, since the award was first handed out, that a coach has won in back-to-back years.
“Despite an offseason with multiple coaching changes, several graduating starters, and a largely rookie offensive line, coach Marshall led the Mustangs to another undefeated season,” said Christine Stapleton, Director (Sports and Recreation Services). “His ability to motivate and inspire his teams is a testament to the hours of hard work and dedication he puts in to not just winning games but seeing his student-athletes succeed both on and off the field.
“Coach Marshall is not one to want the spotlight centered on him but he deserves the recognition for the incredible work that he does representing our football program, athletics department and the university as a whole.”
The Mustangs were also well represented in the 1st and 2nd Team All-Canadians classes. On top of Merchant being named a 1st Team All-Canadian, Bleska Kambamba was also recognized as a 1st Team All-Star at Corner and Marc Liegghio was recognized as a 1st Team All-Star as a punter and place kicker.
On the 2nd Team All-Canadians were offensive lineman Zack Fry receiver Brett Ellerman.