REGINA, Saskatchewan -- Mike Pringle, who topped the Canadian Football League in rushing for the second straight year and led the Baltimore Stallions to the Southern Division title and a 15-3 regular-season record, was named the CFL's Most Outstanding Player last night.
Pringle ended Calgary Stampeders quarterback Doug Flutie's four-year reign as the league's top player, and became the first player from an American-based team to win. Pringle defeated Calgary slotback Dave Sapunjis by a vote of 31-10.
Pringle wasn't the only Stallions player who drew recognition at last night's awards banquet. Guard Mike Withycombe was named the league's Most Outstanding Lineman.
One year after Pringle broke the CFL rushing record by gaining 1,972 yards, he came back to rush for 1,791 yards and 13 touchdowns.
He did that despite missing one game with a hamstring injury, then sitting out most of the regular-season finale against Hamilton when coach Don Matthews decided to rest him for the playoffs.
"I can't thank my offensive linemen enough," said Pringle. "They give themselves up for me all the time, and without them I wouldn't be able to get the yards that I get. Down and dirty football is what I like -- in the mud, slush, in between the tackles -- I'm like an offensive lineman.
"I'd also like to thank [fullbacks] Robert Drummond and Peter Tuipulotu. They are the most unselfish backs I've ever played with.
"This award means a great deal to me, and it's something I know my teammates appreciate as much as I do. I'm glad other people are noticing. I'm not going to change the way I approach the game because of this. I couldn't be happier about winning it."
Pringle also led the CFL in yards from scrimmage with 2,067 and was fourth in all-purpose yards with 2,387. He was the major reason the Stallions led the league in net rushing yards (2,754). Pringle beat British Columbia's Cory Philpot by nearly 500 yards in the race for the rushing title.
Withycombe, a 30-year-old CFL rookie, became the second straight Baltimore player to win the lineman award. He follows teammate Shar Pourdanesh, who won the award in 1994. Withycombe, 6 feet 5, 300 pounds, came to the Stallions after several NFL and World League seasons, and he won the award as much for his versatility as his blocking skill.
Withycombe began the season at left guard, but was forced to play two other positions. He started five games at center early in the season after Nick Subis broke two ribs. Later, Pourdanesh missed four games with stress fractures in both ankles, and Withycombe replaced him.
Withycombe defeated British Columbia guard Jamie Taras, 27-14.
The Stallions had hoped for a three-player sweep at last night's banquet, but that did not happen. Edmonton receiver Shalon Baker edged Baltimore kick returner Chris Wright for Rookie of the Year honors. Baker caught 79 passes for 1,156 yards, ninth best in the league and tops among Edmonton receivers. Wright, who is the league's most exciting kick returner, broke the CFL record with 2,256 return yards.
Edmonton linebacker Willie Pless won the league's Most Outstanding Defensive Player award for the second straight year and third time in four seasons.
Sapunjis won the Most Outstanding Canadian award. He also won it in 1993.