Alouettes receiver Austin Mack was disappointed earlier this season when he learned he wouldn’t be eligible for the CFL’s most outstanding rookie award because of his brief NFL stint with the New York Giants.
But that pales in comparison with what potentially could be in his future.
Mack is the Als’ nominee for the most outstanding player award, the CFL announced on Wednesday morning. While his production has diminished of late, the 26-year-old unequivocally has been the team’s best offensive threat.
The 6-foot-2, 206-pounder is the Als’ leading receiver. In 16 games, Mack has caught 78 passes for 1,154 yards while scoring four touchdowns. He has exceeded 100 yards in five of his games, including a season-high 143 yards on Sept. 2 against B.C. But in the four games Mack has played since, his total is a pedestrian 183 yards.
Mack, who played collegiately at Ohio State, went undrafted in the NFL before being signed by the New York Giants. During the 2020 season, he caught seven passes for 91 yards. He also had short stints with Tennessee and San Francisco, but never dressed for a game, before arriving in the CFL.
Last September, he told the Montreal Gazette he was prepared to retire in January. He graduated with a degree in finance.
“For me, it was just life getting real,” he said at the time. “At some point, you have to look at yourself in the mirror. The NFL’s a tough business. Guys are there to take your job every day. You’re there to take their job and there’s somebody on the street waiting to take your job. It’s a privilege to play in the NFL, but it’s a tough business and you have to be on your toes every single day.
“If the opportunity to play isn’t there, you’ve got to find something else.”
Mack’s East Division competition in the next round is Toronto quarterback Chad Kelly, Hamilton receiver Tim White and Ottawa tailback Devonte Williams.
Montreal’s other nominees include: linebacker Tyrice Beverette on defence; safety Marc-Antoine Dequoy (Canadian); guard Pier-Olivier Lestage (offensive lineman); linebacker/defensive back Reggie Stubblefield (rookie), and punter Joseph Zema (special teams).
Dequoy’s selection was unanimous. In his third season with the Als, he has elevated his game and become dominant. Along with his 53 tackles, Dequoy has a team-leading five interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns, including one of 108 yards against Ottawa. He also has forced two fumbles. Dequoy, who has played in every game, has nine interceptions in the last two seasons.
Beverette has a team-leading 85 defensive tackles, seven quarterback sacks and four fumble recoveries, two of which were returned for touchdowns. He also plays on special teams, where he has produced 17 tackles.
In only 12 games, Stubblefield has 37 defensive tackles, three sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble. His play has improved markedly as the season progressed.
Zema has punted for a 47.4-yard average, while Lestage, selected 10th overall by the Als in 2021, came to Montreal after spending time in the NFL with Seattle as an undrafted free agent.
Voting was conducted by selected members of the Football Reporters of Canada in each city, along with each team’s head coach. Division finalists will be revealed Nov. 1 with winners announced Nov. 16, during Grey Cup week at Hamilton.
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