February 12, 2019

Sigh Of Relief

He’s maybe not quite as quintessentially Calgary as, say, a trip up the Tower, the rankest bull on the final Stampede Sunday, a rafting trip down the Bow or basking in the sunshine packing back a triple burger with cheese accompanied by a piña colada milkshake from Peter’s Drive-In.

Nevertheless, Bo Levi Mitchel – the ice-in-his-veins fastball pitcher from Katy, Texas – has managed to weave himself and his “y’alls” into the very fabric of this community.

And here, after a dizzying day of options, he’ll stay.

“A crazy morning,” confessed the just re-upped Stampeders’ quarterback. “First time for myself being in free-agency.

“Enjoyed every minute of it.

“Fielded offers from a number of teams. Some very, very good offers. But at the end of the day – and stuck to it – that I’d give them last right of refusal.

“Once I found the second offer that I liked the most, I gave them a chance to get close or beat it and they did just that.”

The deal, four years, total outlay of $2.8 million, takes Mitchell to age 34.

His commitment to the White Horse is matched only by one other.

“Yeah. Committing to my wife that we’d go to Hawaii more often,” he said, alluding to the deep-freeze outside. “Maddie’s literally been on Westjet the last week looking at discount flights to Hawaii.

“So I think we’ll book one of those here pretty soon.”

When asked during a 4 p.m. media availability in the player’s lounge if he could have possibly seen himself modelling any other colour scheme – say, Hogtown double-blue or prairie-flatland green – he shook his head slowly in a sort of disbelief.

“I can’t personally see it and a lot of people told me the same thing,” he said. “That’s the thing I’m most excited for – to continue my career where it’s been and where it’ll hopefully be for the rest of the time I’m playing football.

Down-south options in Minnesota, Denver and Indianapolis ultimately didn’t provide the type of front-line opportunity impetus he craved and overtures from the newly-minted Alliance of American Football failed to catch Mitchell’s fancy.

On an unprecedented day of free-agent movement in the CFL, with Mike Reilly going from Edmonton to B.C. and Trevor Harris shifting from Ottawa to the Eskimos, Mitchell took less to stay in a place he’s very comfortable.

“I did, for the right reasons. I understand what it takes to keep a team together. That’s why I took less four years ago on my contract,” he said.

“This whole morning was just us (he and Maddie) talking back and forth to each other, what Calgary’s given us, what we’ve given back to the city and what we’ve built here. She was 50 percent of the decision. This has a lot to do with our family, as well. Obviously B.C. is the closest to our family, location-wise.

“But we wanted to stay in Calgary.

“A big part of it was getting back Eric (Rogers), some of these receivers signed. I’m excited as hell they signed K.J. (Kamar Jorden). He’s one of the guys I’ll end my career throwing the ball to.

“Early on I saw Dos (Brad Erdos) and Berg (Shane Bergman) and Cam (Ucambre Williams) all signed back. Having an O-line in front of me, receivers around me, I know what we can do.

“We’ll find some pieces to plug in on defence. Obviously we’re going to be hurtin’ there to start off. But free agency’s still young.

“So it’s going to be fun.”

Over the course of seven seasons at McMahon Stadium, the last five as a starter, Mitchell has collected two Grey Cup rings to go along with as many title-tilt MVP awards, a pair of MOP nods and has thrown for 25,191 yards (regular-season and playoffs).

Legacy is word Mitchell uses often as he continues to shimmy up the career franchise stat ladders.

“At the end of the day I didn’t want to leave because the offers were so close. I didn’t want to leave something we’d been building here.

“At the end of the day, the answer was Dave (Dickenson). He’s a guy I want to play the rest of my career for. I haven’t been shy to say I want to play football as long as I can but my passion is going to be coaching whenever I’m done, so if I can follow that into a coaching career with Dave that’s something I’ll definitely do.”

The niggling uncertainty at an end, Mitchell – the calmest man to be found the most dire situations on the field – seemed blissfully at ease with a rather large decision on Tuesday.

“You can ask my wife – there’ve been a lot of sleepless nights,’’ he acknowledged, “thinking about all the different scenarios that could play out.

“But I think I’m going to sleep like a baby tonight, knowing I’m in a place that I love and call home.”