CFL Alumni Association creates new Indigenous Champions Award

By TRT Staff with notes from the CFLAA

HAMILTON — The Canadian Football League Alumni Association (CFLAA) was proud to announce that it will be presenting the inaugural “CFLAA Indigenous Champion Award” at this year’s Grey Cup Legends Luncheon, on Friday, December 10th, in Hamilton, ON.

Held annually, since 2009, as part of every Grey Cup Festival, this event features the largest contingent of CFL Alumni and has become one of the premier events of the festival for every CFL fan at the Grey Cup.

While the CFLAA has traditionally presented the “Alumnus of the Year Award” to honour a local Alumnus who excelled on the field, and has made positive post-career contributions in the community, this year’s addition of the CFLAA Indigenous Champion Award is in support of the Canadian Football League’s “Diversity is Strength” strategy and truth and reconciliation initiatives.

To do this, the CFLAA formed a sub-committee to create something that would meet this high standard and Tiger-Cat Alumnus John MacDonald, Mohawk from Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, was invited to join the committee as an Indigenous advisor. MacDonald proposed that this new award would hit the mark, and the Indigenous Champion Award was born.

In this light, the award is intended to honour former Indigenous CFL players and current advocates of Indigenous participants as players or coaches in the game of football.

To commemorate the honour, a trophy has been shown featuring a traditional eagle soapstone carving.

Jim Styres will be recognized posthumously for his lifetime contributions. He will be represented by his daughter Eydie Styres. Styres, of the Deer Clan of the Cayuga Nation, was born on the Six Nations Reserve October 23, 1929. He started his football career with the Brantford Bison Football league. He then played with the Hamilton Panthers, who were Dominion Intermediate Champions in 1951. In 1970, he coached the Hagersville High School football team to win the Zone 2 SOSSA Championship.

Styres received much gratitude for his community work. To pay respects to community elders in the 70’s, he started the summer Elders Fish Fry & the Fall Game Dinner, which are still annual traditions. Jim was a respected elder and a head faith-keeper in traditional ways. The door to his cabin was always open to mentor many young people who wanted to learn the traditional ways. In 2008 he was bestowed the community honour of the title Six Nations Community Treasure. In 2010, he was honoured by Six Nations with the title of Knowledge Guardian for preserving centuries-long knowledge in his community. In 2012 the Tiger Cat Alumni Association presented him with the Award of Distinction for recognition of his outstanding contribution to his community and the sport of Football.vHe passed away on August 28, 2018

Justin Shakell is from the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. Shakell started his playing days in the Belleville Minor Football League in 1992. From there he spent 5 years at Moira Secondary School playing football, basketball and competing in shot put and discus.

After High School he played 5 years at Wilfrid Laurier University as a defensive end, defensive tackle, backup long-snapper and backup punter. He finished his CIS career as a three-time Laurier linemen of the year MVP, two-time OUA first team all-star and first team All-Canadian in his final year. He was team captain in 2003 and played in 3 Yates Cup Championships. He was drafted by the Hamilton Tiger Cats in 2004.

He started coaching in 1999 in the BMFL. He was a defensive line coach for the Guelph Varsity Bears in 2003 in the OVFL. From there he was a player coach in the NFC for the Kingston Privateers for three years. In 2005 he coached the Bayside Secondary School team and then landed at Moira Secondary School, coaching junior defence, from 2006-2011, where they won two COSSA championships and one National Capital Bowl Championship.

He then went on to start a football program at St. Theresa’s where they won a Jr Bay of Quinte championship in their second year and went to two COSSA championships – one at Junior and one at Senior. In 2021 Justin was named head coach of the Quinte Skyhawks.

Though he was drafted by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Justin Shakell never played a game in the Canadian Football League (CFL) or any other professional circuit. Yet Shakell, a 41-year-old member of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, is one of the inaugural recipients of a new award that will be presented annually by the Canadian Football League Alumni Association (CFLAA).

It was noted that the response to the award has been positive.

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