June 22nd, 2024

Former Stampeder quarterback Mitchell ready for long-awaited return as a Tiger-Cat

By Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press on June 6, 2024.

CALGARY – Bo Levi Mitchell returns to the football field where he’s won a lot in his career. The quarterback wants to continue that Friday while wearing enemy colours.

Mitchell and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats visit the Calgary Stampeders in the 2024 season-opener for both clubs.

It’s been a minute for the former Stampeder quarterback to return to McMahon Stadium after Calgary traded his rights to Hamilton in November 2022.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say there was a little bit of extra motivation,” Mitchell said Thursday on the visitors’ side of the stadium. “If this was the fourth, fifth game (of the season), I think I would think about that aspect of it a little bit more.

“Right now, it’s just trying to get us off to a hot start, get off to 1-0 and again, just run this offence and be healthy and everything that I didn’t have last year.”

CFL schedule makers didn’t grace Calgary with a home date against the Tiger-Cats in 2023, although there was no guarantee Mitchell would have played. He was limited to six starts last season because of a fractured leg and an adductor injury.

“If this game was the first game of last year, it probably wouldn’t have felt it was that long ago,” Mitchell said. “The year in between has built that hype and the suspense a little bit. Good of the CFL. They really thought ahead on that one.”

Mitchell’s first decade as a CFL player was spent in Calgary where he won two Grey Cups and was twice named the league’s most outstanding player.

The Texan is the franchise’s all-time leader in passing yards (32,541). He’s 47-13-2 all-time at McMahon.

The 34-year-old says he’s healthy after a rigorous off-season of rehab, but given Mitchell’s age, recent rate of injury and a year remaining on his contract after this season, more return visits to McMahon after Friday aren’t guaranteed.

“Win, loss, tie, I think I’ll cherish the moment the same either way,” Mitchell said. “Any time you can spend a lot of time in one place is a huge blessing. It means you had a lot of success and a lot of loyalty as well.”

How the quarterback’s familiarity with Calgary’s systems, and how Stampeders head coach and general manager Dave Dickenson’s knowledge of his former quarterback will manifest itself Friday is intriguing.

“It’s chess,” Mitchell said. “I know damn near every one of their coverages and every one of their defensive calls and half their signals probably. Sure they’ve changed some of those.

“They know what I’m good at. They know what I like to throw. They know where I like to put the ball. They know my weaknesses, but I also know what Dave thinks of my weaknesses.”

Jake Maier took over as Calgary’s starter in August of Mitchell’s last season in Calgary. Maier, 27, was Mitchell’s roommate on the road and the two quarterbacks keep in regular contact via texts.

“He showed me the ropes in this game and how it’s played at a high level and the style of play you have to have to win championships in this league,” Maier said. “He was a great role model for me. That wasn’t just watching him playing games.

“That was day-to-day in the meeting room, how to operate it, how to talk to your teammates, how to be a leader, Bo was big for that.

“It’s all coming full circle finally. We wanted it to happen last year, but hey, we’ll take it this year. How much would I like to beat Bo? Probably as much as he would like to beat me.”

Calgary went 6-12 for its first losing record since 2007, while Hamilton was 8-12, last season. Both clubs finished third in their respective divisions, and bowed out of the playoffs in their division semifinals.

HAMILTON TIGER-CATS (0-0) AT CALGARY STAMPEDERS (0-0) Friday, McMahon Stadium.

SEASON-OPENERS: The Stampeders host Hamilton in a season-opener for a fifth time, but first since 2018. Calgary is 4-0 against the Ticats in those games. Hamilton has yet to start a season at home against Calgary. In their last 50 home-openers, the Stampeders are 23-24-3 and the Tiger-Cats 14-46.

700 CLUB: Calgary’s next win will be the 700th all-time by the Stampeders. They’re tied for the most wins by any franchise in CFL history with Edmonton at 699.

ON A ROLL: Stampeders receiver Reggie Begelton carries a 52-game reception streak into this season.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 6, 2024.

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