Hall: Mitchell all business in return to Calgary

Bo Levi Mitchell touched down in Calgary Wednesday night with a personal game plan for his first appearance in enemy colours at McMahon Stadium.

No pre-game fraternizing with the opposition. No nostalgic tours of his old neighbourhood. No “quick” drinks with family and friends. Back at the helm of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ offence, Mitchell is determined to author a comeback story this season fitting of a Texas cowboy.

It all starts Friday night in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

“It would be an understatement to say I’m happy to be able to come back and play again at McMahon Stadium where I obviously have a lot of good memories,” Mitchell said before boarding a plane bound for Alberta. “Good, bad and everything in between.”

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The good memories include two Grey Cup titles (2014 and 2018) for the two-time CFL Most Outstanding Player (2016 and 2018). The good memories include countless laps for the Calgary Stampeders’ touchdown horse with Mitchell sporting a glittering 47-13-2 record at McMahon.

“I had so many great years in front of those fans,” said Mitchell, now a grizzled veteran at age 34.  I look forward to putting up another great game in front of them.”

Even if it means (temporarily) snubbing his loved ones before the opening kickoff.

“It’s important for me to get out there and get off to a hot start,” Mitchell said. “So I’ll just stick with my teammates — hang out at the crib, or the hotel — and then I’ll see people after the game.”

At the end of the ’22 season, the Stampeders traded Mitchell’s rights to Hamilton in an exchange of draft picks. Two months later, Mitchell signed a three-year deal with the Tabbies.

But the 2023 campaign did not go as planned for Mitchell or his new team. Injuries limited the Eastern Washington product to just six starts and modest stats (a 2-4 record, completing 78-123 passes, 1,031 yards, six touchdowns and 10 interceptions.)

Those numbers look particularly pedestrian compared to Mitchell’s career stats of 2,5743,998 passes completed for 33,572 yards, 194 touchdowns and 99 interceptions.

“On the personal side, I’m just looking to get back to healthy, strong football and leading the offence and leading the team,” he said.

Barring a wrinkle here or there, Mitchell knows what to expect from the Calgary defence.

And the Stampeders know what to expect from him.

“There’s not a defence he probably hasn’t seen or a blitz he hasn’t seen,” said Calgary cover man Branden Dozier. “He’s going to throw the ball deep and he’s going to challenge us as DBs to make plays.

“He’s probably going to look off the safety and the DBs and go the opposite way. So we have to pay attention to his pre-snap cues and where he’s actually looking and what they’re trying to set up.”

Mitchell is ready for his long-awaited return to Calgary, where he built a Hall of Fame calibre career with the Stampeders (Ticats.ca)

There’s no disguising the fact the Calgary coaching staff holds Mitchell in the highest regard.

“He’s the best,” said defensive coordinator Brent Monson. “A Hall of Famer. We’ve just got to do what we do and try to make him uncomfortable.”

And history dictates the bigger the moment, the bigger the performance from No. 19 — regardless of how uncomfortable he may feel.

“He’s not my player, and I’m not his coach,” said Dave Dickenson, Calgary’s head coach and general manager. “But he’s always going to have a part of me. I love our relationship, and I love what he brought to the Calgary Stampeders.

“But we’ve got to try to go get a win and then make his life a little bit miserable.”

Both Dickenson and Mitchell have openly mused about the possibility of one day coaching together. And Mitchell’s talent for broadcasting is clear any time he steps into the TSN studio as a guest analyst.

A career behind the microphone is there for the taking if Mitchell wants it.

“He’s one of the best — I think he would probably appreciate hearing that,” Dickenson said of watching his former quarterback on TSN. “He does outstanding work, but I also think he would be an outstanding coach at some point. And he’s one of the best players. I’ve got a lot of good feelings towards Bo even though we’ve got to go out there and get the win.”

Regardless of what happens in Friday’s game, Mitchell’s body will no doubt remind him of the passage of time when he finally gets to catch up with family and friends after the final gun.

At 34, the hits hurt more after the fact than they did at 24.

“I’m not done with the game, and I hope it’s not done with me yet,” Mitchell said. “I remember Milt Stegall told me, ‘You’ll know when you’re done, because you won’t ever want to get hit again.’

“And I still have no problem with getting tackled. And I’m still having fun.”

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