Calgary Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell leaned on an experienced fellow QB for working back to full strength from off-season shoulder surgery: Travis Lulay.
During his career, Lulay had multiple shoulder setbacks and made it back on the field every time. Lulay played 10 years with the B.C. Lions winning the Grey Cup and the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player award in 2011. He left a lasting impact in Vancouver and league-wide, retiring in February 2019.
“The thing that probably helped me the most was talking to Travis Lulay, I sat down for a beverage with Lulay to talk about it,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell has been rehabbing following a procedure to fix a labral tear. He initially suffered the injury during the Stamps’ Week 3 win against B.C. in 2019. The 30-year-old left the game late favouring his right arm, chest and shoulder area. Following the setback, the two-time CFL MOP and Grey Cup champion was placed on the six-game injured list — it caused Mitchell to miss a start for the first time since 2014.
“He’s like man, listen, you’re going to come out of surgery, you’re not going to be able to move your shoulder and you’re going to be worried. Then 10 days later you’re going to be able to move it. Then you’re going to start feeling overly optimistic,” Mitchell said.
“Then you’re going to start to rehab and your mindset is going to go back the other way, you’re going to think, ‘man, I can’t even do an external rotation at 90 degrees,’ and you’re going to question whether or not you’re going to ever be able to throw the football again.”
Renowned sports doctor Neal ElAttrache, who works primarily out of Los Angeles, fixed Mitchell’s shoulder. He did the same for Tom Brady’s ACL in 2008 and performed multiple operations on the late five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant among other star athletes. Lulay felt Mitchell needed to avoid the mental highs and lows, instead, stay neutral and focused on the goal for each individual day while progressing positively.
“He said at the very beginning once you actually do pick up the football and start throwing, you’re going to have this eureka moment like, ‘Oh, I’m good, I’m good to go, I’m going to be able to throw. I’m fine,'” Mitchell said.
“He’s like, ‘You’ve just got to avoid trying to rip the ball, trying to overdue it to test yourself. He’s like, “Don’t test yourself, you’ve got plenty of time. Make sure you do things the right way so you’re confident in how you’ve recovered.”
Along with Lulay, ElAttrache has been watching over Mitchell’s progress using Skype and FaceTime. Meanwhile, Jeff Peach, an athletic therapist based in Calgary, keeps a close eye in Cowtown. Peach helped Mitchell with his mechanics and throwing motion prior to the injury, his knowledge comes from a baseball-playing background.
“That’s kind of the blessing in disguise. You have the time to go through rehab and really strengthen all the muscles in your shoulder. You have time to focus on those beginner mechanics and get yourself back to where you want to be,” Mitchell said.
The two-time CFL MOP and Grey Cup champion has used the extra time to hone in on where his mechanics were prior to compensating while playing with the upper body ailments over a couple seasons. Mitchell has been videotaping every throw with the help of the Stampeders head athletic therapist Josh Termeer.
“I can go back and look and say ‘OK, this one hurt a little bit and this is why’. As soon as you fix that one thing all of a sudden there is no pain and your shoulder feels great, feels strong,” Mitchell said.
“I’m four to five weeks into throwing right now and we’ve only progressed from 30 feet, to 40 feet, to 50 feet and in that time of 70 throws at 50 feet, I’ve been able to rip the ball as hard as I can and feel completely fine with it.”