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Jon Cornish Trophy: All You Need to Know

Here is everything you need to know about the Jon Cornish Trophy, which is given annually to the top Canadian player in NCAA Football.

The current holder is former Illinois running back Chase Brown, a London, Ontario native who finished fourth in the country and second in the Big Ten Conference with 1,643 yards in 2022. 

He also scored 10 touchdowns to help lead the Fighting Illini to their first winning season in 11 years and their most wins, eight, since 2007. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fifth round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

This article provides the history of the Jon Cornish Trophy, including past winners, as well as early players to watch for the 2023 award.

What is the Jon Cornish Trophy?

The Jon Cornish Trophy is given annually to the top Canadian player in NCAA Football. 

This is a relatively new award that has only been handed out since 2017. 

The award is named after Jon Cornish, a British Columbia native who played football at the University of Kansas. 

The running back led the Big 12 and set a Kansas record with 1,457 rushing yards in 2006 before being taken 13th overall in that year’s Canadian Football League Draft by the Calgary Stampeders.

Cornish embarked on a nine-year career with Calgary that saw him win the CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian Award three years in a row, from 2012-2014, as well as the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player award in 2013 and the Lou Marsh Trophy, given annually to Canada’s top athlete, in 2013.

Cornish rushed for over 6,800 yards and 79 touchdowns while winning two Grey Cups with Calgary.

Who votes on the Jon Cornish Trophy?

The Jon Cornish Trophy is voted on by a large panel which includes player personnel evaluators with the CFL, several Canadian journalists, former NCAA football players with Canadian connections and panelists from Gridiron Nation, a weekly collegiate football recap show focusing on Canadian players. 

When is the Jon Cornish Trophy awarded?

The 2022 Jon Cornish Award Trophy winner, Illinois’ Chase Brown, was officially announced on December 14, 2022. 

That was after the college football regular season had concluded and even after USC quarterback Caleb Williams won the 2022 Heisman Trophy.   

Who has won the Jon Cornish Trophy?

Four players have won the  Jon Cornish Trophy in its brief history, with Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke and Alabama wide receiver John Metchie III both winning the award twice. 

Below is a list of the previous Jon Cornish Trophy winners:

SeasonWinnerPositionSchoolHometown
2017Nathan RourkeQuarterbackOhioOakville, Ontario
2018Nathan RourkeQuarterbackOhioOakville, Ontario
2019Chuba HubbardRunning BackOklahoma StateSherwood Park, Alberta
2020John Metchie IIIWide ReceiverAlabamaBrampton, Ontario
2021John Metchie IIIWide ReceiverAlabamaBrampton, Ontario
2022Chase BrownRunning BackIllinoisLondon, Ontario
2023Elic AyomanorWide ReceiverStanfordMedicine Hat, Alberta

Ohio’s Nathan Rourke won the first two Jon Cornish Trophy awards in 2017 and 2018. The quarterback threw for over 4,600 yards and 40 touchdowns for the Bobcats in those two seasons. 

Chuba Hubbard led all FBS schools in rushing with 2,094 yards in 2019. He added 21 touchdowns on the ground that year. Hubbard was drafted in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers.

Alabama wide receiver John Metchie III won the 2020 and 2021 Jon Cornish Trophies, recording 151 catches for 2,058 yards and 14 touchdowns before getting drafted in the second round by the Houston Texans in 2022. 

Chase Brown rushed for 1,643 yards and 10 touchdowns in his Cornish Trophy-winning 2022 campaign with Illinois. He caught an additional three touchdown passes and was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2023.

In his Cornish Trophy-winning 2023 season, Stanford wide receiver Elic Ayomanor won the award after catching 62 passes for 1,013 yards and six touchdowns. He caught 13 passes for 294 yards and three touchdowns in a double overtime win over Colorado.

Who are the 2023 Jon Cornish Trophy candidates?

The early favorite to win the 2023 Jon Cornish Trophy is Ohio quarterback Kurtis Rourke, last year’s runner up and two-time winner Nathan’s younger brother. 

He had a standout 2022 season, completing 69.1% of his passes for 3,257 yards and 25 passes, but a torn ACL ended his campaign before the MAC Championship game. 

He returned for this year’s season opener against San Diego State on August 26th. Rourke completed 8-of-10 passes for 75 yards to start the game, but left with an apparent injury and did not return the following week. 

He returned for his team's third game of the season and threw for 203 yards and a touchdown to beat Florida Atlantic 17-10.

Other leading contenders include Auburn wide receiver Nick Mardner, who has 1,488 yards and 11 touchdowns combined at previous stops Hawaii and Cincinnati, and Memphis linebacker Geoff Cantin-Arku, who had 76 tackles and 1.5 sacks for the Tigers last year after transferring from Syracuse.

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