King Solomon – Elimimian remains the only Defensive MOP in CFL history

King Solomon – Elimimian remains the only Defensive MOP in CFL history
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King Solomon – Elimimian remains the only Defensive MOP in CFL history

Back in 2014 Solomon Elimimian was named the CFL MOP (Most Outstanding Player). Which doesn’t sound so surprising on paper. After all, The CFL had been dishing out a MOP award every year since the 1950’s.

But this was different. Because Elimimian was the first purely defensive player to win the league’s Most Outstanding Player Award. He remains the only purely defensive player to attain this feat too.

Much like the NFL MVP award – the CFL MOP award favours the offensive side of the ball. Particularly rewarding top quarterback play. QB’s have taken home the trophy 40 times.

And reigning MOP 2021 All-star Zach Collaros is favourite to win it again as things stand. Which would make 6 of the last eight winners a QB. Broken only by WR Brandon Banks in 2019, and Elimimian himself in 2014.

So how did Solomon do it? And was he the first defensive player to be considered? Let’s take a look.

The season of Solomon – Elimimian’s MOP Year

Solomon Elimimian – a leader on the BC Lions. Image from BCLions.com

The year Elimimian won the MOP award he also won the Most Outstanding Defensive Player award. Having won the Most Outstanding Rookie in 2010, this made him the first player in league history to win three different individual CFL awards.

That season he broke the CFL’s all-time single season record for defensive tackles with 143, and went further, surpassing the total tackles tally with 151. (143 defensive tackles and 8 special teams tackles). He also notched 5 sacks, 1 interception and 2 forced fumbles.

How dominant a performance was this? Well if we look at the stats from that year, the nearest defensive player was Bear Woods with 94 total tackles! Meaning Solomon was hitting 3 more tackles per game than even his closest competitor.

Beyond the MOP season

He would go on to record 868 career tackles, (832 defensive & 36 on special teams). Plus 32 career sacks, 8 interceptions and 9 forced fumbles.

Elimimian would pick up a second Most Outstanding Defensive Player award in 2016. That year he again led the league in total tackles with 130 (129 defensive and 1 special teams). Although Bear Woods was behind him again, this time he was a lot closer at 126 tackles.

No longer a Lion

After nine seasons in BC, Solomon Elimimian was let go after the 2018 season. He was officially released in April 2019. Leaving the Lions as their all time tackles leader (745 tackles in 118 games).

He subsequently signed with Saskatchewan for his final CFL season. Despite missing some games he recorded 88 tackles, forced a fumble and had 8 sacks.

For all the personal glory perhaps the greatest moment in his career came in 2011. As part of the last BC Lions team to lift the Grey Cup.

Solomon Elimimian was a six time Western All-Star (2011, 2013-14, 2016-17 & 2019), and a four time CFL All-Star (2011, 2014 & 2016-17).

A DB was considered before winning on the other side of the ball – meet Garney Henley

Garney Henley in action for Hamilton. Image from Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

As noted above, the CFL MOP award is dominated by offensive talent. The only other MOP winner with any defensive connections is Hal Patterson. Who won the 1956 Schenley Award for Most Outstanding Player listed as a DB/Offensive End.

That season Patterson had 5 interceptions. But let’s be honest. His incredible offensive production was what won the accolade. In 1956 he had 88 catches for 1,914 yards (21.8 yards per catch) and 12 touchdowns in a 14 game season. It remains one of the great pass catching seasons in CFL history.

But one man was considered for the award listed as solely a defensive player. Meet Hamilton great Garney Henley. Henley was named MOP runner up in 1965. A year he was prominently playing defensive back. That year he had 5 interceptions, 2 going for touchdowns and had 67 punt returns covering over 550 yards. Although he was a swiss army knife type of player who did all sorts throughout his career this was not a season of great offensive output.

Henley would be named league MOP in 1972. That year however he was listed as a wide receiver. In fact he rushed 4 times for 70 yards and a touchdown, caught 36 passes for 881 yards and 7 touchdowns and returned four punts for 32 yards over a 14 game season.

As great as Patterson and Henley were, Solomon Elimimian stands alone. The only purely defensive player to be named CLF MOP. Will we see another?

As ever, it will be fun to watch what happens on the playing fields of the CFL and find out.

Banner image: Solomon Elimimian with the BC Lions. Image from sportsnet.ca

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