Thanks to one of the most dominant seasons in University of Alberta Golden Bears and Canada West history, fifth-year Bears running back Ed Ilnicki has been awarded the prestigious Hec Crighton Trophy as the U SPORTS Football Player of the Year.
Ilnicki broke the Canada West single-season rushing record with 1,468 rushing yards in 2017, leading the 3-5 Golden Bears back to the Canada West playoffs for the first time since 2010. Ilnicki also added 151 receiving yards in 2017, breaking a 42-year old program record for single-season all-purpose yards with 1,619. Ilnicki is the first Golden Bear to win the Hec Crighton trophy since Bears receiver Brian Fryer captured the MVP award in 1975.
“Ed, by pure strength of will and hard work, has turned himself into the best football players in the country,” said Golden Bears head coach Chris Morris. “I think that’s what makes him special; he understands how hard you have to work. He respects the game and he respects the process. He is a young man of impeccable character who tirelessly serves his team and community. Ed embodies everything that is good about university athletics, and that's what this award is about. "
The Spruce Grove, Alta. product also found the end zone 11 times on the ground this season, the most in Canada. His rushing total was tops in the country by more than 300 yards and the fifth most all-time nationally. Ilnicki concluded his five-year career as Alberta's all-time rushing leader with 4,145 yards – the second most all-time in Canada West history. He also ends his career as the program's all-time leader in all-purpose yards (4,978), carries (691), and rushing touchdowns (28).
With a Golden Bear winning the 2017 Hec Crighton Trophy, it continues a trend of Canada West excellence in U SPORTS football. This is the fourth-straight season the Canada West representative has won the national Player of the Year Award, following former Calgary Dinos quarterback Andrew Buckley in 2014 and 2015, and Regina Rams quarterback Noah Picton in 2016.
The 2016 Ottawa REDBLACKS 7th round draft pick is the first running back since 2006 to win the Hec Crighton, the 13th RB all-time to win this award, and just the second-ever Canada West running back (Mark Nohra - UBC - 1997).
Ilnicki is a four-time Academic All-Canadian, serves as the President of the University Athletics Board, was also the Canada West nominee for the Russ Jackson Award for Student-Athlete Community Service.