Veteran Bo Levi Mitchell has reflected and learned from his younger self.
The Calgary Stampeders’ franchise quarterback admitted that after winning the CFL title in his first year as a full-time starter, the instant success inflated his ego.
“As soon as we won the ’14 Grey Cup, 2015, 2016 I got too big of a head and would get upset at guys for not doing something right when I’m not out there doing everything right,” Mitchell said on CKRM 620 radio in Regina.
“One of the problems we have as players sometimes is as soon as you have success you think you’re smarter than you are. I really tried to be a coach on the field. The best way to say it is I don’t think I did it the proper way.”
Mitchell led the Stamps to a 15-3 record, which tied the franchise mark for most wins in a season, on the way to earning first place in the West Division. The gunslinger completed over 63 percent of his passes for 3,389 yards with 22 touchdowns against eight interceptions and added 35 rushes for 232 yards (6.6 per carry) and four majors.
The six-foot-two, 206-pound passer threw for 336 yards and four touchdowns in a convincing 43-18 West Final win at McMahon Stadium. One week later, Mitchell passed for 334 yards and earned Grey Cup MVP honours as Calgary narrowly beat Hamilton 20-16. Mitchell was just 24 years old at the time.
“At times I thought I even alienated myself from some of my teammates. Thinking if I did this at this age you should listen to me for that reason because obviously I know something. It’s just not the way ever to approach it,” Mitchell said.
“Years removed from that time in 2015, 2016, I started to realize those things. Dave [Dickenson] has pointed those things out to me and helped me realize no matter how much you want to be a coach in the future, you’ve gotta focus on the now.”
His personal statistics improved in 2015, however, the Stampeders lost to Alberta rival Edmonton at Commonwealth Stadium in the West Final. In 2016, Mitchell went over the 5,000-yard mark for the first time in his career while tossing 32 touchdowns in a dominant campaign which earned him the league’s Most Outstanding Player award. Although, 15-2-1 Calgary lost to 8-9-1 Ottawa 39-33 in overtime of the 104th Grey Cup.
“You’ve gotta focus on being a player, you’ve gotta always be a player first, especially when it comes to your teammates because they’re out there putting the same amount of work in. They’re making the same mistakes you are, and you’re not getting screamed at for it by them,” Mitchell said.
“The reason I’ve had success lies within Dave. I don’t think I would be the same quarterback, I don’t know that I have the same success early on, which would change the opinion at the end of my career.”
The combination of Mitchell, Dickenson and John Hufnagel has produced unmatched results in the CFL since the trio came together. It’s a major reason why Mitchell elected to stay in Calgary when he was a free agent in February 2019. Mitchell signed a four-year contract worth almost $3 million to continue playing for the Stamps.
“I know for a fact I would have success in any system I play in the CFL because I understand the game and I believe in my skillset. You question if I go play for this offensive coordinator, am I going to be as successful? As a quarterback it does rely a lot on who calls the plays,” Mitchell said.
“If you don’t get to call the plays as a quarterback, and your coach doesn’t give you the ability to put input into the play calls, what you like and the throws you like, your success is solely based on him and you guys vibing.”
Mitchell has matured and learned from his past — winning a second Grey Cup in 2018 — while improving his approach and mentality for the future.