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November 23, 2017

SINGLE-MINDED FOCUS

Bo Levi Mitchell during a game on Oct. 20, 2017 (Photo by David Moll)

OTTAWA – A thicket of misshapen, greying scribblers, well-coiffed on-air talent and sturdy types brandishing  TV cameras had Bo Levi Mitchell well and truly hemmed in.

Nowhere to go. No avenue of escape.

The Toronto Argos’ defensive front of former comrade-in-arms Shawn Lemon, Victor Butler, Cleyon Laing and Dylan Wynn can only dream of containing the Stampeders’ pivot with such efficiency come Grey Cup Sunday.

Following a 4:30 p.m. arrival at Ottawa MacDonald Cartier International Airport, the Stamps held a quick media availability, their first of many such obligations this week.

For an entire calendar year, this, here, now, has been their aim.

“Feels good,’’ said Mitchell of making a return visit to the Grey Cup game. “You work for this all year. You talk about it all year, about how we were going to get back to this game again and exact that revenge.

“About how we wanted this chance. How we wanted to be in Ottawa.

“Well, here we are.”

Projection made reality.

Last Sunday’s 32-28 grinding victory over the Edmonton Eskimos in the Western Final behind them, the Stamps are in full-out Argo-mode.

“Guys have this, like, driven focus right now,’’ continued Mitchell. “Right now, you can kinda see it in guys’ eyes. Not just smiles, ear-to-ear.

“You can tell the game plans are out, guys are focused on what to do.

“We’re talking about meeting time and things like that instead of where to go eat. I’ve experienced the outside part of (Grey Cup week) enough.

“I’m ready to go play.”

In the wake of the Edmonton conquest, the role outside doubt played in the Stamps’ being able to shrug off a three-game losing skid to close out the regular season was given plenty of attention.

“I think y’all gave us a certain focus,’’ repeated Mitchell on Tuesday, for the benefit of the assembled media. “We don’t want to derive all of our motivation and everything from that. I think we just kinda heard the whispers and everything, saw the percentages of being the third team picked and whatnot.

“Guys took that to heart.

“Hey, I’m a football player. I have eyes. We weren’t playing great and they were playing very hot, so I can see why y’all did it.

“But we’re ready for this. Whether we’re favourites or not, we don’t care. We were pretty heavy favourites last year, too.”

Among the players, there is a single-minded, obsessive hone-in-on-the-task-at-hand.

“Hey, I’ve been here a couple times,’’ said Mitchell, “and it’s very tough to tell your family ‘after the game.’ They love you. They’re here to support you. They want to see you. Maybe since the season started you haven’t gotten to hang out with them as much as you’d like, or they’d like.

“But you have to be firm. I’ll see you ‘after the game.’ I’ll have dinner with you ‘after the game.’ We’ll celebrate ‘after the game.’

“You’ve gotta be smart. Not only for yourself but the team.”

The self-appointed mission, approaching one full calendar year removed from its initiation, is but one step away.

“Now,’’ says the man on whose shoulders so much rests, “it’s time to motivate yourself for this one game.

“You hear it all the time, I know, but nothing else can matter to you until the job is complete, until the business is done.

“Do we want to make up for what happened last year? Of course. But that’s not the primary incentive, just getting revenge for what happened.

“Winning a championship, getting that ring, being on top of the mountain again … whatever it takes, however it happens, that’s what’s uppermost in our minds.

“Right now, for us, nothing matters beyond Sunday.”