Long before Nate Holley was attracting national attention and earning the West Division’s nomination for CFL Most Outstanding Rookie, Wynton McManis knew there was something special about the kid.
Think way back to training camp, back before Holley stepped in at weakside linebacker after Cory Greenwood got hurt in early-September. Back before Holley had hit the ground running on special teams and was attracting double teams from opponents nearly every time the Stampeders kicked the ball.
Way back in May when the Stamps were taking their first tentative steps as a group in training camp, McManis saw something in Holley.
“You could kind of see it before it was even happening,” McManis said. “From the time he got here in pre-season he was making plays and flying around at training camp.
“He came hot in hitting the ground as a rookie and hasn’t slowed down since.”
On Thursday morning, the CFL officially announced Holley was the West Division’s nominee for Most Outstanding Rookie. He’ll be up against Montreal Alouettes receiver Jake Wieneke for the league-wide honour, which will be handed out at the CFL Awards at the Saddledome on Thursday, Nov. 21.
Wieneke had a great year and is a deserving nominee, but Holley’s got to be the favourite. He finished the year with 22 special-teams tackles and 78 defensive tackles, and as head coach Dave Dickenson explained, it’s a rare accomplishment for any player to get 100 tackles in a season, let alone a rookie.
“I think he’s the frontrunner, but I coach the Calgary Stampeders, but I think there’s pretty clear evidence that he had a great year,” Dickenson said. “Hundred-tackle guy, that doesn’t happen very often for a rookie to do it. Multiple positions, 22 of (the tackles) on special teams.”
Holley, a 24-year-old Kent State product, spoke last week about the list of goals he made for himself prior to the season. It was a list he put above his bedroom door so he could be reminded of it every day, and he can now check off getting the Most Outstanding Rookie nomination.
“It’s nice, obviously very proud of myself,” Holley said in his typically understated manner. “Proud of the accomplishments so far, hopefully we can get the big one, too.”
He likely would have led the league in special-teams tackles this season had it not been for Greenwood’s injury forcing him into becoming an every-snap player on defence.
His play at linebacker surely pushed him over the edge for many of the voters who picked him as their nominee, but his special-teams prowess should not be overlooked.
It’s where Holley earned his opportunity with the Stampeders, after all, and where he showed what he could do for the first two-thirds of the season.
“Those first few games of the year when he was just playing special teams, I made a point in our meeting that he reminded me of (former Stamps linebacker) Deron Mayo,” said Stamps special-teams coach Mark Kilam. “I hadn’t seen a guy cover like that and redirect at speed like that since Deron.”
Clearly, the Stamps saw in Holley back in training camp what voters came to see by season’s end.
For the second year in a row, Stampeders punter Rob Maver was named as the team’s recipient of the Herm Harrison Memorial Award.
The award annually recognizes a Stampeders player for their outstanding involvement in community service and is named after a man who was not only one of the franchise’s all-time greats, but stuck around Calgary and continued to support numerous community initiatives.
Maver is an obvious choice.
He co-chairs the Rob Maver Gut N’ Glory flag football tournament, which helped raise roughly $36,000 for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada this year.
“I think the first thing is this is a tremendous opportunity to celebrate (Harrison’s) contributions to the city and the organization,” Maver said. “After that, this is a big win for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. Everything I’ve done is to increase awareness and put their names in the media or out there to elevate the awareness surrounding Crohn’s and Colitis. I’m happy about that.”
Maver’s contributions to Crohn’s and Colitis also includes the Kicking Crohn’s in the Butt program, which sees Truman Insurance donate $1 to the Calgary chapter of the organization for every punting yard Maver accumulates. This year, that added up to a total of $4,549.
GOOD WITH IT
Other than Holley, there were no other Stampeders who were nominated for end-of-season awards.
Dickenson was likely second on most voters’ ballots for Coach of the Year, but got beat-out by his brother, Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach Craig Dickenson.
The Stamps boss wasn’t the least bit bothered.
“I think the right guy won, for sure,” Dickenson said. “What he’s done is amazing, because that’s the other thing with (Hamilton Tiger-Cats head coach Orlondo Steinauer, the East Division’s nominee), too. They have had a backup quarterback for most of the year. We went through a bit of it and there are obviously some good football players (as backups), but to have 13 or 15 wins … that’s impressive.”
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