He grew up dreaming of playing in the NFL, but three years with the Stampeders have convinced Bo Levi Mitchell that Calgary is where he wants to be.
Mitchell celebrated his 25th birthday Tuesday by signing a contract extension that will keep him with the Stampeders through the 2018 season. Mitchell will be 29 before he’s able to take a shot south of the border but the six-foot-two, 210-pound Texan has no burning desire to leave Calgary.
“I’m in a city that I love, I’m playing for a great football team with a great coaching staff,” Mitchell told reporters at a news conference. “Honestly, when it came down to it I couldn’t see myself playing anywhere else.
“I want to wear red and white until I am done playing football so it was something we wanted to attack pretty early.”
Mitchell’s extension comes after a solid first season as Calgary’s starter. The Katy, Texas, native completed 264-of-417 passes (63.3 per cent) for 3,389 yards with 22 TDs and eight interceptions while rushing for 232 yards and four touchdowns.
He was 13-2 as the starter and guided Calgary to a league-best 15-3 record. Mitchell capped his season by leading Calgary past Hamilton 20-16 in the Grey Cup, taking MVP honours after completing 25-of-34 passes for 334 yards with an interception.
“Being a first-year starter you go through ups and downs,” he said. “There were times that things went well, especially in the beginning.
“And then quickly teams found out things to do to stop me. Having a guy like Dave (offensive co-ordinator Dave Dickenson) out there makes it a little bit easier to defend against those things. I want to make sure I can take it upon myself to self scout . . . and try to find those things out before teams find them out so I can fix them and make it harder on those teams to find out ways to stop us.”
In three CFL seasons, Mitchell has completed 370-of-570 passes (64.6 per cent) for 4,713 yards with 34 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He has run for 450 yards and 11 touchdowns while fumbling 10 times.
John Hufnagel, Calgary’s head coach/GM, said consistency is the biggest challenge facing Mitchell. But what impressed Hufnagel, himself a former CFL quarterback, about Mitchell was how he tackled adversity.
“What I liked about that time of his growth is that he didn’t play what I termed bad football,” Hufnagel said. “He kept his composure, he fought and he found a way to make a play to win those games.
“That’s something I was pleased to see throughout his development that he’s not fazed by tough going, hard times. If anything, it makes the competitor in him come out and somehow, some way he has found to make plays.”
Calgary will carry the weight of expectation this season as the defending Grey Cup champion. And rival defensive co-ordinators will not only have seen Mitchell play but also have a lot more game film on him.
“Bo did a lot of great things last year as he was learning,” Hufnagel said. “In the second year, defensive co-ordinators will have a better understanding of how to defend a certain quarterback and those are the type of things he’ll have to overcome and we’ll have to overcome as a football team.”
Mitchell certainly had a solid supporting cast last year as Calgary’s offence led the CFL in scoring (28.4 points per game) and rushing (143.9 yards per game) and was anchored by league rushing leader Jon Cornish (1,082 yards). The unit also rarely beat itself, committing a league-low 29 turnovers.