Nick Arbuckle played Madden against Bo Levi Mitchell all off-season, wants to develop ‘Brady vs. Manning’-type rivalry

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

Toronto Argonauts’ quarterback Nick Arbuckle and former teammate Bo Levi Mitchell found a way to stay competitive in 2020 despite the cancellation of the CFL season.

“When the pandemic hit and they cancelled our season, me and him were both looking for a way to kind of stay competitive in a football environment, so we created a Madden team,” said Arbuckle in a videoconference. “We had like 32 dudes — a lot of CFL players — we were always playing Madden against each other, so me and Bo were talking every single day.”

The Madden league got so competitive that people would stream their games for other players to watch. Arbuckle even went as far as to break down film of some of the games in his head to try to gain a competitive advantage.

“That’s how I kept in football. I want to compete, I want to read defences, make these reads, make these throws, and that’s how I stayed in it. I’m a competitive person and I just want to be in football as much as I can,” said Arbuckle.

Arbuckle was Mitchell’s backup for three seasons in Calgary (2017-19) and started seven games in his absence last season, passing for 2,103 yards, eleven touchdowns, and five interceptions. The Stampeders went 4-3 under Arbuckle, which drew the attention of quarterback-needy teams across the league.

“I texted him when the schedule came out and he said, ‘Hopefully this is the beginning of a longtime rivalry that we’re gonna have for the rest of our careers in this league,'” said Arbuckle. “Hopefully it becomes like that Brady vs. Manning kind of thing where it’s always the game you look forward to. That’s ideally where my career will get to and his will stay at because he’s already playing at the Hall of Fame level.”

Legendary quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning developed a strong rivalry over a fifteen-year period in the NFL, combining for 23 Pro Bowl selections, seven MVP awards, and six Super Bowl titles from 2001-15. The passers went head-to-head seventeen times with Brady winning eleven of the contests.

Arbuckle won’t have to wait long to face his former mentor as the Argonauts are set to visit the Stampeders in Week 1 on August 7. The 27-year-old wants Mitchell to succeed, but wouldn’t mind if he got off to a slow start in 2021.

“We’re good friends and close and our families are close,” said Arbuckle. “I wish nothing but the best for him and success for his teammates and family — just not on the seventh, I hope he has a bad game.”

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.