BURLINGTON, ON – The accolades for the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s football team continued to roll in on Thursday as two members of the team were recipients of OUA Major Awards as announced at a press conference at the Holiday Inn Burlington.
Nakas Onyeka, a fourth year linebacker from Brampton, Ont., took home the OUA President’s Award as the top stand-up defensive player in the conference while head coach Michael Faulds was recognized as the Coach of the Year.
Onyeka was a force to be reckoned with all-season for a Golden Hawks defensive unit that led the conference in defensive touchdowns (6) and sacks (36).
Onyeka, a fourth-year communications studies student-athlete, led OUA with 51 solo tackles, while he ranked fourth in several defensive categories, including: total tackles (59.5), tackles per game (7. 4), sacks (5.5) and sack yards (40), all of which are career highs the dynamic 6’0″, 210 lbs linebacker.
Earlier this season, Onyeka was ranked 16th on the Canadian Football League Scouting Bureau’s list of prospects eligible for the 2017 CFL Draft.
A season after being selected to the OUA second-team, Onyeka was recently named a first-team all-star and is the first Golden Hawks player since former Laurier standout Giancarlo Rapanaro in 2010 to win the President’s Trophy.
Long known for their strong defence, Onyeka becomes the 10th Golden Hawks player to win the award since 1980, the most by any program in the conference over that time period.
“This is an accumulation of four years of work,” said Onyeka after receiving his award. “All I can do is pay credit to the guys I play with. The best d-tackle I believe in Canada, who makes my job a whole lot easier in Jalen Price and a bunch of pieces arou nd me that help me make the plays and that I hope help them make plays.”
Coming off a second place regular season finish for the first time since 2009, Faulds was honoured with the Dave ‘Tuffy’ Knight Award as OUA Coach of the Year, presented by Centaur Products.
Three years removed from a 1-7 finish, Faulds’ Golden Hawks went 7-1 in 2016 and were one of the top ranked teams on both sides of the ball this season, leading the league in rushing yards (2251) and defensive touchdowns (6). Under Faulds, the Golden Hawks also scored the most touchdowns (43) and the second most points (341) in program history.
Faulds is the first Golden Hawks coach to be win the Dave ‘Tuffy’ Knight Award as OUA Coach of the Year since longtime Laurier bench boss Gary Jeffries was recognized in 2009. Faulds becomes the fourth Golden Hawks head coach to win the award, joining Rich Newbrough (1985), Dave Knight (1972, 1979-80), along with the aforementioned Jeffries (2003-2005, 2009).
“When I first found out that I was Coach of the Year, the first thing I did was tell my staff that it’s really the staff of the year,” said Faulds on receiving the honour. “We have so many great pieces around me and so many great players that we get to coach. But it really is a testament to how far we’ve come, from 2013 going 1-7 to 7-1 this year, it truly is amazing.”
The two major awards earned by the Golden Hawks this season now give them four over the past three years, the second most in the conference, trailing only the six won by the McMaster Marauders.
“I think the neat thing about it is its four major awards but four different awards,” added Faulds on the recognition Laurier has received from the conference. “It shows that it’s not just one position always, but that we’ve got good coaches all over.”
Onyeka , Faulds and the rest of the Golden Hawks now turn their sites to Saturday’s Yates Cup showdown with the Western Mustangs. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at TD Stadium in London and fans can buy their tickets for the game at westernmustangs.ca.
The game will also be broadcast live on CHCH, 570 News and OUA.tv.