‘He would have been nothing without that’: Riders’ Corey Mace fondly recalls catching Bo Levi Mitchell’s first career TD pass

Graphic: 3DownNation (Photos courtesy: Kevin Sousa/CFL | Saskatchewan Roughriders)

Saskatchewan Roughriders’ head coach Corey Mace will be responsible for stopping Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell on Sunday, but he may also have kick-started his opponent’s career.

Mace and Mitchell spent four seasons together as teammates with the Calgary Stampeders from 2012 to 2015, plus another five from 2016 to 2021 while the 38-year-old was getting his start as a defensive line coach. They shared a pair of Grey Cup victories over that span, as well as one particularly memorable on-field moment.

“I caught his first touchdown pass too, don’t forget about that. He would have been nothing without that,” Mace joked to the Regina media this week.

“I’m just messing, man. It’s one of those things I just subtly remind him of every once in a while, that if it wasn’t for me (who knows what happens). It was a fun thing to celebrate. More cool for me than I think it was for Bo.”

The native of Port Moody, B.C. plied his trade as a defensive tackle for three seasons in the NFL and another six with Calgary, batting down far more passes than he caught. His only career reception just happened to come in a 2012 game against the B.C. Lions, when a rookie Bo Levi Mitchell was manning the short-yardage unit.

“I was a tight end and we had a slam block and I bailed out on a corner and he put a loaf of bread up there for me to catch over I think Korey Banks if I’m not mistaken,” Mace recalled, revealing with a chuckle that it was the young gunslinger who got to keep the football after the play.

“Because I’d already scored a touchdown in the league, I think we gave that one to Bo. He deserved that one. But now that he’s thrown so many of them, maybe he could give it back now?”

Mitchell would not make his first career start until a year later and officially took the reins as the Stampeders’ face of the franchise to begin the 2014 season. It marked the beginning of one of the most successful stretches by a quarterback in CFL history, as he has since thrown for 194 more touchdown passes while winning two Most Outstanding Player awards.

Injuries have made the past several seasons difficult for the 34-year-old signal caller, leading to his move from Calgary to Hamilton after the 2022 season. However, Mace still holds his former teammate in high esteem.

“He’s a walking Hall of Famer, I think we all know that,” he raved. “The experience that he’s had in this league, not only working with who he worked with in Calgary but the tutelage he’s getting over there with Scott (Milanovich), he’s been around some brilliant minds and he’s been one himself. Not a ton that you’re gonna throw at him that he hasn’t seen, he can make all the throws, it’s gonna be a challenge, man.”

Mitchell started just two games against Mace while he was defensive coordinator for the Toronto Argonauts, struggling on both occasions. It was a Week 11 matchup against his old friend that saw him permanently benched by the Stampeders in 2022 and he has gone a combined 25-of-40 for 310 yards with four interceptions in their meetings.

Nevertheless, the aging legend looked rejuvenated in his return to Calgary last week, throwing for 300 yards, a touchdown, and an interception while rushing for 36 yards in the loss. After securing his first career head coaching victory in the season opener, Mace expects to be pushed to the brink by Hamilton’s quarterback.

“I think just being in an environment where he’s won a lot of games, he knows what it looks like to be a winner,” he said. “It’ll be an excellent challenge for us defensively from that standpoint and as a full team going against a guy that is leading their team like Bo.”

The Saskatchewan Roughriders (1-0) will visit the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (0-1) at Tim Hortons Field on Sunday, June 16 with kickoff slated for 7:00 p.m. EDT.