- Hometown: Spruce Grove, Alta.
- School: University of Alberta
- Faculty: Business
- Program: Business
- Sport: Football
- Eligibility in 2018-18: 5th
After completing one of the most dominant seasons in University of Alberta and Canada West football history, senior running back Ed Ilnicki’s accolades continue to pile up.
Ilnicki broke the Canada West single-season rushing record with 1,468 rushing yards in 2017, leading the Golden Bears back to the Canada West playoffs for the first time since 2010. Ilnicki also added 151 receiving yards in 2017, breaking a 42-year old program record for single-season all-purpose yards with 1,619. The Spruce Grove, Alta., product also led U SPORTS in carries and rushing touchdowns in 2017, winning the prestigious Hec Crighton Trophy as the top football player in Canada.
His rushing total was tops in the country by more than 300 yards and the fifth most all-time nationally. Ilnicki concluded his five-year career as Alberta's all-time rushing leader with 4,145 yards – the second most all-time in Canada West history. He also ends his career as the Golden Bears’ all-time leader in all-purpose yards (4,978), carries (691), and rushing touchdowns (28). For his on-field accomplishments, Ilnicki was named the Canada West Male Athlete of the Year and a nominee for the U SPORTS BLG Award as Male Athlete of the Year across all sports.
While his on the field accomplishments speak for themselves, what also set Ilnicki apart from his peers was his work both in the classroom and in the community. A four-time Academic All-Canadian, Ilnicki also spent his fifth season as the University Athletics Board President, the University’s student-athlete led community service group.
He volunteered with both the Stollery Children’s Hospital and KidSport Edmonton, while also leading campus initiatives such as Bear Pause, Bears and Pandas Bike-a-thons, and the student-athlete blood drive. Because of this, Ilnicki was named the 2017 Canada West football Student-Athlete Community Service Award winner and a nominee for the U SPORTS Russ Jackson Award.
“This award is a culmination of my experience as a university athlete, and it represents the hard work that those around me have put in to help me achieve excellence as a student-athlete,” said Ilnicki. “In the future, it will remind me of the effort put in by those contributors, and motivate me to have the same impact on everyone around me every day possible.”
“Ed, by pure strength of will and hard work, has turned himself into one of the best football players in the country,” said Golden Bears head coach Chris Morris. “I think that’s what makes him special; he understands how hard you have to work. He respects the game and he respects the process. He is a young man of impeccable character who tirelessly serves his team and community. Ed embodies everything that is good about university athletics, and that's what this award is about."