If you’ve always wanted to know how much playing soccer in Canada can change someone’s life, Bo Levi Mitchell is the latest example.
The kid who grew up in Katy, TX. and played his college football at Eastern Washington University. The Calgary Stampeders quarterback wasn’t into college football or the NFL’s latest drama. He watched curling.
So talk of a win-or-go home soccer game that Stamps fans and oh, the entire province of Saskatchewan are fixated on waited a few seconds while Mitchell found a willing audience of like-minded, stone-hungry enthusiasts to go with could dine.
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It was a brief reminder of how far Mitchell has come in his nine seasons in the CFL.
Do you remember the young, cheeky QB who could shoot in the mouth as easily as a 50 yard TD pass? Those shaking days are largely behind him, apart from the one or other Damian Lillard-like wave of goodbyes he threw to Edmonton fans in the Labor Day rematch this year.
Mitchell has grown up. He is 31, married and has two children. He is a two-time MOP and two-time Gray Cup champion. After the most difficult season of his career, he also goes into the playoffs.
After going through the worst game of his CFL career in Week 2 – he threw four interceptions and zero touchdowns in a loss to BC – he found out he’d played with a fracture in his leg. He missed three games and the stamps dropped to 2-5 by mid-season. It was a slow build up when he came back as he was building chemistry with new, young recipients. His season stats look bogus: 2,594 yards with 10 touchdowns to 13 interceptions.
Even so, Mitchell and the Stamps have pulled their way out of a seemingly deep hole and are here, in the postseason, winners of six of their last seven games.
“It’s hard to talk about the season we’ve had,” said Mitchell.
“We have had a lot of players on this team where we have the best record in the league and everyone is talking about MOP and the most outstanding defensive player and the most outstanding Canadian coach of the year … it’s hard not to hear everything.”
âI think it’s nicer in the changing room when you can’t hear anything. I think now that I’m on this side, getting into a playoff football game is easier knowing that people might doubt you. “
While it’s the kind of trip you wouldn’t want to take as a professional athlete, there couldn’t have been a better time for Mitchell.
âI think I dealt with it the same way I dealt with fatherhood. Take the lump, learn from all the mistakes, and just try to get better, âhe said.
The people closest to him on the field saw a seasoned player work his way through new, humiliating territory.
âI saw a star, man. I saw Bo really grasp the adversity, âsaid Stamps running back Ka’Deem Carey.
Carey was impressed with the way the Stamps stuck together when they were stuck on two wins. He said team meetings helped show off each other’s personalities and how they responded to a rare break in the team’s long-standing winning tradition.
âBo was one of them. The way he has done this whole season just kudos to this guy and the way he has led us so far, âsaid Carey.
âAs the face of this program and what he went through at the beginning of the season so far, man, and the way he blocked the noiseâ¦ I’m just proud of the way he did it. He is a true leader, a true warrior. And I’m just glad he’s our leader. “
Dickenson said the combination of recovering from the leg injury and meeting new recipients took a long time for his star quarterback. After the four-interception game and a layoff for injury, Dickenson saw Mitchell’s confidence take a blow.
âBo tried to get used to the recipients. Who’s a jump ball guy, who’s a fast twitch guy, who’s a big body guy that I know I can trust to get there and in the worst case scenario it becomes an incompleteness be, âsaid Dickenson.
âI think I saw the Gray Cup 2018 and I think we were 80 percent different. Basically nobody was there. So I feel like Bo needed these reps in practice. He did not practice enough at the training camp, he was plagued by a bar. I thought he wasn’t getting enough repetitions. My advice was to do it in practice, day in and day out. Get the reps, do it like a game and you will play better when it happens. He took that to heart and he did a good job. “
As much as Mitchell grows up, some things that are beyond his control will never change. He has played many games at the Mosaic Stadium over the years but this is his first playoff date here. He knows what Sunday will sound like.
“I think when I walk into this building the Sask atmosphere is always the same,” he said. “The stadium is full and everyone here hates me.”
With that, he ended his press conference, checked the curling score, and left the room.