Quarterback Kerry Joseph was repaid for guiding the Saskatchewan Roughriders to their first Grey Cup appearance since 1997.
Joseph received the highest CFL individual honour after being named the league's most outstanding player on Thursday at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto.
The voting wasopen to the Football Reporters of Canada as well as the eight CFL head coaches.
"To be honest, I was thinking about it and now that this night is over I can focus on the Grey Cup," Joseph said. "That's the ultimate prize."
Grey Cup's the ultimate prize: Joseph
Joseph was elated that he was able to win the award withhis mother, Geraldine, having madethejourneyfrom Louisiana on the U.S. Thanksgiving to be with her son.
"She's my heart," an emotional Joseph said.
Joseph, who beat out Winnipeg Bombers pivot Kevin Glenn, was a surprise winner considering his counterpart led the CFL in pass attempts (621), completions (388) and yards (5,114) and was second.
However, Joseph ranked third in passing with 4,002 yards, but helped his cause by also leading all quarterbacks with 737 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Joseph also led the Riders to a 12-6 record — second only to the current Grey Cup champion B.C. Lions (14-3-1) in the CFL.
Torontohosts Sunday's big game
The Saskatchewan pivot hopes to lead his team to a victory when the Riders face Winnipeg at the 95th Grey Cup in Toronto (CBC, 5:30 p.m. ET). It would be Saskatchewan's first title since 1989.
"It truly has been a journey," Joseph said. "When you work so hard to find success, it does pay off."
Josephbecomes the first Roughriders quarterback to win the award since Hall of Famer Ron Lancaster didit back in 1976.
"It's really an honour to be mentioned in the same breath as a legend," Joseph said.
While the Lions failed to repeat as champions, they did have four of their players win awards onThursday.
Slot back Jason Clermont was named the CFL's top Canadian player.
Clermont, who also won the award in 2004, finished third in the CFL in receiving this year with 86 catches for 1,158 yards and seven touchdowns.
"It's a great honour because this is an award a lot of guys can stand up and accept," Clermont said.
Defensive end Cameron Wake was named the CFL's outstanding rookie and also won the league's top defensive player award.
Wake had an outstanding first year in the CFL, registering a league high 16 sacks. He also had 69 tackles, three forced fumbles and the only blocked field goal during the regular season.
B.C. Lions rookie takes home 2 trophies
"Wow, someone want to pinch me?" Wake said. "My head is still spinning."
Wake, who played at Penn State as a linebacker, was moved to defensive end when he arrived in B.C. The move paid huge dividends as Wake developed into the best defensive lineman in the CFL.
Another Lion, Ian Smart, earned the CFL's top special-teams player award.
Smart was a logical selections after winning the special-teams triple crown. He led the league in punt returns (92, 912 yards, one TD), kickoff returns (53, 1,228 yards, 23.2-yard average) and all-purpose yards (2,440).
A fourth Lion, offensive tackle Rob Murphy, took home the top lineman award for the second consecutive year. Murphy, a former Ohio State Buckeye standout, helped the Lions reduce their sacks total from 56 in 2006 to 32 this season.
"I'm happy about the individual award but the big goal was to be here and play in the big game," Murphy said.
Winnipegreceiver Milt Stegall received the Tom Pate Memorial award for community service and teammate Charles Roberts earned the Fans Choice award. Keith Pelley, the outgoing president of the Toronto Argonauts, was presented with the Commissioner's award.