July 24th, 2024

Stanford receiver Ayomanor captures 2023 Jon Cornish Trophy

By The Canadian Press on December 13, 2023.

Stanford wide receiver Elic Ayomanor catches a touchdown pass against Washington during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Stanford, Calif., on October 28, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Jeff Chiu

VANCOUVER – Stanford Cardinal receiver Elic Ayomanor is the 2023 Jon Cornish Trophy winner.

The six-foot-two, 210-pound sophomore from Medicine Hat, Alta., captured the honour Wednesday. The award is presented annually to the top Canadian player in NCAA football and named after former running back Jon Cornish, a native of New Westminster, B.C., who played collegiately at Kansas before embarking on a Hall of Fame career with the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders.

Ayomanor was Stanford’s receiving leader with 62 catches for 1,013 yards (16.3-yard average) and six touchdowns. He finished fifth in the Pac-12 for receiving yards, a heady accomplishment considering Ayomanor didn’t play as a freshman after sustaining a knee injury before the ’22 season.

“It’s good to see your hard work being rewarded with accolades,” Ayomanor said. “I don’t think accolades have really mattered to me that much but obviously it’s great to be recognized.”

Ayomanor registered three 100-yard performances this season, his most notable outing coming in Stanford’s 46-43 double-overtime win over Colorado on Oct. 13. Ayomanor had 13 catches for a school-record 294 yards and three touchdowns, all coming in the second half and overtime as the Cardinal overcame a 29-0 deficit.

Not surprisingly, Ayomanor was honoured as the FBS national performer of the week following the comeback victory.

Ayomanor secured the Jon Cornish Trophy after registering 25 points in voting by its selection committee. Memphis linebacker Geoffrey Cantin-Arku, a senior from Levis, Que., was second with 18 points, two ahead of third-place finisher Kurtis Rourke, a quarterback at Ohio from Oakville, Ont.

The other finalists were Tanner McLachan, a senior tight end at Arizona from Lethbridge, Alta. (14 points) and Jett Elad, a junior defensive back at UNLV from Mississauga, Ont., (five points). Also receiving an honourable mention were: Edmonton’s Nuer Gatkouth (freshman defensive lineman, Colorado State); Vancouver’s Ty Benefield (freshman defensive back, Boise State); Kelowna, B.C.’s Nolan Ulm (junior receiver, Eastern Washington); Melique Straker of Brampton, Ont., (senior linebacker, Arkansas State); and Isaiah Adams of Ajax. Ont. (senior offensive lineman, Illinois).

An offensive player has won the Cornish Trophy every year since its inception in 2017. The others include Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke (2017-18), Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard (2019), Alabama receiver John Metchie III (2020-21) and Illinois running back Chase Brown (2022).

All five previous winners are currently playing in the NFL, which also happens to be Ayomanor’s long-term goal.

“I grew up watching many of those guys, especially Chuba,” Ayomanor said. “He ran track in Alberta and I’d see him at meets and although I never really talked to him, I knew who he was and that he was playing Division 1 football at the time and that was my goal.

“John Metchie actually went to the boarding school I went to in New Jersey and I followed him pretty closely as well. It’s great that I’m getting closer to achieving what those guys have accomplished.”

Ayomanor left Alberta to attend high school in the U.S. He first went to Peddie School in New Jersey before transferring to Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts, earning attention in both football and track.

While Notre Dame, California, Tennessee, and Ole Miss were among the universities to present Ayomanor with scholarship offers, his goal was always to attend Stanford, a school that’s highly regarded in academic circles.

“There’s still that element of humility because everybody here is doing something very, very substantial in the world,” Ayomanor said. “Even though you might be a very, very good football player there’s going to be somebody that’s creating a new drug or something like that … it feels like you’re surrounded by a whole bunch of excellent people so you’re just one of those excellent people and you’re kind of all peers together.

“The men who come out of Stanford end up having great NFL careers because you have to have a different mindset to come here. You have to be a very, very disciplined person to come here and I think that translates very well to the NFL.”

Stanford finished 3-9 overall and 2-7 within the Pac-12 under first-year head coach Troy Taylor. While the Cardinal’s overall mark remained the same from 2022, its conference mark was an improvement over 1-8 in 2022.

“The 2024 season, for us, has already started, we’re already preparing for that,” Ayomanor said. “I really do trust these new coaches, I think they have a lot of really good knowledge and their mindset is fresh.

“They’re very hungry to do very well at this job and I trust they will give us the right opportunities to do that. I think they’ve changed a lot of the culture and mindset within the players in this program, which has been great to see.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 13, 2023.

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