Former Eagle Mitchell performs well on Canada’s ‘Super Bowl’ stage
Tosses his team’s lone TD, plays part in 20 Calgary points in 35-22 Grey Cup loss at Toronto
Like others, former Eastern Eagle Bo Levi Mitchell is paying his dues and making strides in the Canadian Football League.
This time in his appearance on the national football stage, Bo Levi Mitchell was unable to work the kind of miracles he did two years ago helping lead Eastern Washington to the Division I national championship.
But given only the final two minutes to do what he could to make Canada’s 100th Grey Cup championship more of a game – and not the runaway the Toronto Argonauts crafted in their eventual 35-22 victory last Sunday – Mitchell did deliver as he tossed the lone Calgary Stampeders’ touchdown.
It was Mitchell who Stamps’ coach John Hufnagel called on in the final too-little, too-late moments to make a game out of a game that got away from Calgary early in Canada’s Super Bowl.
Hufnagel bet, for 58 minutes at least, that journeyman CFLer Kevin Glenn was the answer. Considering the well-traveled Glenn – who’s thrown for over 36,000 yards and 200-plus TDs in a 12-year CFL career – was the guy that helped fuel the 11-2 finish that got Calgary to the championship, the odds seemed good.
Except Glenn was in his first Grey Cup where the 53,000-plus hugely partisan fans at Toronto’s Rogers Centre made his life difficult. The bulk of his passes connected for short yardage.
And while the size of Mitchell’s stage in Frisco, Texas two years ago was smaller, it was still huge and he performed in the clutch with three touchdown passes in the game’s final 17 minutes to rally the Eagles past Delaware 20-19.
Mitchell’s just glad to have the opportunity to be there and play a role. “Just getting the opportunity to come out here and play is huge for me,” he said in between practice and some downtime last Friday.
Calgary signed Mitchell as a free agent this past April 30 following his winning the Walter Payton Award as the top offensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision in January.
Mitchell silently played a key part in 12 more of Calgary’s first 14 points as the holder for four Rene Paredes field goals.
But Mitchell also did a lot to get Calgary to the title game too. Just the Sunday prior for instance, the guy who has yet to add ‘eh to his Texas twang, buffaloed the defending Grey Cup champs.
“The last game against B.C. (British Columbia), it’s the Western finals, third and one, everybody expects me to come up there and run the QB sneak,” Mitchell said. “We run play-action and a 42-yard pass out to Mo Price to the 1-yard line.”
Mitchell scored on a third and goal play to give the Stampeders a 31-16 lead – ultimately the decisive points in Calgary’s 34-29 win. “It took three downs,” Mitchell said. “They stuffed us the first two times, I banged up my wrist a little bit on the second one and had to tough it out, and put it in on the third one.” That was Mitchell’s self-described rookie memory.
He also scored a pair of touchdowns in the Stamps’ 36-30 opening round playoff win over Saskatchewan.
Mitchell’s new team epitomized the axiom of it’s not how you start but how you finish, starting 3-4 after losing starting quarterback Drew Tate to a shoulder injury.
“It was shaky at first,” he said. “When you name your starting quarterback and then game two he goes down there’s always going to be that little cloud over the team.”
The job fell to Glenn. “For him to come in and be a field general out there and command this team has been absolutely huge,” Mitchell observed in his unusual role as a back-up quarterback.
“It’s obviously a different role for me, but it’s huge for me to get in there and earn my teammates’ trust,” Mitchell explained. “I’ll lay my body on the line for the 1 yard, whatever it is to make sure I get the first down, the touchdown.”
Another new duty is that of Calgary’s short-yardage quarterback, funny considering in his two years at Eastern, Mitchell toted the ball 113 times for 42 net yards.
One hesitates to call Mitchell a “crash test dummy,” but that’s essentially what he is. “They actually told me about it before I came up here,” Mitchell explained. “Each team has a short-yardage quarterback – someone who comes in for the starter – and basically takes a hit for him.”
That’s also made Mitchell a prime target for ex-Eagle and 2012’s CFL’s top defensive player, J.C. Sherritt who set a new league tackles record with Edmonton. “Oh yeah, he got me a couple of times,” Mitchell said.
“I have to say I did get him on one play,” Mitchell said. “We did a little rollout and he read the play better than anybody, following me. All of a sudden I gave him a little shake and he went to the ground.”
Holding for field goals has been an additional resume builder. To the point people are noticing Mitchell and seeing him being some team’s go-to guy, his name mentioned on the broadcast in talk about the planned CFL’s return to Ottawa next season.
Perhaps a place where Mitchell can once again command center stage?
Paul Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.