March 1, 2018

Mayo Determined to Return

CALGARY, AB - AUGUST 26, 2017: The Calgary Stampeders won 23-7 against the Toronto Argonauts at McMahon Stadium on Saturday night.

In a word, Deron Mayo is persistent.

Resolute. Unbending.

As stubborn as red wine stains on a white shag carpet.

“Right now, for me, it’s making sure the knee is 100 percent before I step back on the football field,’’ says the Stampeders’ hard-luck linebacker.

“And, yes, I do plan on stepping back on the football field.

“It’s been a long time. A long time. Too long.

“I’d be lying if I told you it hasn’t been frustrating for me, for my family. But I am optimistic that I will be returning this year and that I’ll get back to my old form.

“I’m keeping the faith.”

That faith has, of course, been tested – often – since Oct. 15, Week 17 of the 2016 season, when the inspirational Old Dominion grad blew out a knee on a freak play against the Montreal Alouettes at McMahon Stadium.

A cruel twist for someone so highly thought of that he’d been named a team captain and was leading in tackles at the time of the injury.
Forty-eight hours after being hurt, Mayo went under the knife. Following a string of stops and starts – making one appearance in 2017 – he was shut down again for the duration and a second surgery was performed.

Instead of simply going gently into that competitive good night, though, Mayo – a pending free agent – re-upped for one-year, determined to re-launch his career.

He believes.

They do, too.

“Right now, all I can really control is training, getting my therapy and as a Christian man praying to God,’’ says Mayo. “That’s what I’m focusing on. Do everything that’s in my own power.

“I’ve had to be patient, I’ve had to persevere, but I believe that all the effort will pay off.”

Perseverance, the willingness to stay the course no matter how bumpy, is part of the curriculum, the message, at the Ignite Football Camps, being run by Mayo and Stamps’ QB Bo Levi Mitchell.

“We say ‘Don’t just train like the pros. Train with the pros’,’’ Mayo explains. “What we’re trying to do is bring our experience, our knowledge, to youth football here in Calgary and around Alberta.

“We’ve had Marquay (McDaniel), Jamar Wall, Alex Singleton, Dan Federkeil helping out. Our goal is to instill characteristics that build not only a good football player, but a good person, as well.

“Integrity. Work ethic. Dedication. All those traits you hear about that are so important in whatever business you go into.

“There are a lot of life lessons to be learned in sports. On the football field, a lot of things can happen. When bad things happen, you can either fold or step up.

“My career is indicative of that, given the circumstances over the past year and a half with the knee. Before this, I’ve never been hurt for any length of time or had to have surgery. So it would’ve been easy for me to just fold. I refuse to. My aim is to step up.

“I hope to be able to pass that mindset on to young guys in our football academy.

“What football has taught me is to take the moments of adversity the game deals you and make the most of them. Your perspective is a big part of that.”

Perspective is something Mayo, a month shy of his 30th birthday, had to develop by necessity.

“There have been times through this process where I’ve wanted to say ‘OK. Enough. Time to move on’,’’ he confesses. “But you know what? That’d be too easy. And something that’s easy is not worth having.

“I still love football. I still love the game. I still love the competition. I still love being in the locker-room with my teammates.

“So I’ll overcome this.

“I know I’ve still got a lot of life left in these legs. I’m not ready to give it up yet.

“I know I can still play. And not just play, but excel.”