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August 6, 2019


Nick Arbuckle doesn’t feel like he’s 10 years old again, on an excursion to Disneyland sprinting between entrances to the Indiana Jones Adventure and Splash Mountain rides as park closing-time draws distressingly near.

“I wouldn’t describe my feelings that way, no,’’ he reckons. “Not at all.

“I feel it was a blessing to get this opportunity in the first place. I always believed in what I could do if got a chance to get on the field; that I could be successful, accomplish things in games.

“Everything’s just felt really … satisfying. I’m not really focused on whether other people believe in me, in what they think I can or can’t do.

“The things I felt in my hear that I could do, I did, on this level, a level I’d really not gotten a chance at before.”

The all-access Magic Kingdom ticket Arbuckle has been carrying around in his hip pocket identifying him as the Calgary Stampeders’ starting quarterback is, however, set to expire soon.

The ace of the pitching staff, Bo’s Levi Mitchell, is out on the McMahon Stadium carpet again, rearing back and throwing fastballs, readying himself to ease into his accustomed spot on the mound.

Whether that be a week from Saturday here against Montreal or, following a bye week for additional fine-tuning time, the first instalment of the Labour Day Week doubleheader versus the Eskimos remains very much open to speculation.

Still, his return is very near.

“I thought Bo was sharp,’’ adjudged quarterback coach Ryan Dinwiddie following Tuesday’s practice. “The velocity’s there on his arm strength, which is great to see.

“Obviously we’re going to be precautionary with him possibly throwing too much. We’ve got to put him on a rep count.

“His arm’s back to normal. We just need to make sure we’re not overworking him.”

Hardly a CNN Breaking News bulletin with Wolf Blitzer, but playing is fun. Standing along a sidelines decidedly less so.

And it isn’t as if Arbuckle hasn’t more than held up his end of the bargain. Sprinting in out of the bullpen, in the extended relief role, he’s throwing for 1,473 yards and six TDs, completing 73 per cent of his throws, averaging 8.9 per, while piloting the Stamps to first in the West as well as across the league in the process.

Maybe not Mariano Rivera good but Goose Gossage, arguably.

“Nick,’’ explains Dinwiddie, “has provided a different outlook on the position. The stage is never too big for Nick. We haven’t scaled back any of our offence; we’ve thrown the whole package at him.”

When reigning MOP Mitchell exited for the bench flexing his right arm in discomfort a dozen minutes into the fourth quarter of Week 2 versus the B.C. Lions and was subsequently place on the six-game injury list, the sky was supposed to fall, the world to stop spinning on its axis, the Stampeder fortunes to sink without trace.

Instead, they’ve pieced together a 5-2 record.

“We feel like Nick’s a high-quality starting quarterback and we’re really comfortable with him,’’ says Dinwiddie. “Maybe he surprised some people but we weren’t surprised here in the building.

“We felt Nick would be great.

“I guess especially having lost a lot of our guys from last year and then losing Bo to injury kinda had people wondering whether Nick would be able to get the job done or not.

“Just like anywhere else, it’s never going to be AS good as your starter, normally. But Nick’s come in and helped us win games which has been really impressive on his part. We haven’t missed a beat there.

“And he’s evolved each week. We haven’t lit up the scoreboard sometimes but he’s been very efficient in doing what’s asked. For example, finding the low-level checkdowns when big-play aren’t there. A few weeks ago, he hit Terry (Williams) on a swing route on second-and-20 and we get 21 yards out of it.

“That’s playing the quarterback position. That’s making the proper decision.

“I’ve been impressed by him.

“I think everyone’s been impressed by him.”

Asked what he’s been most proud of during this spell of success, Arbuckle replies:

“I’d say that we’ve been able to win games at the end. No matter how good or bad we’ve been performing during any game to that point, when it came down to crunch time, when it came down to this-is-the-moment time, we’ve been able to get the job done.

“I’m just grateful for every opportunity I’m given.”

Thursday in another first-place-showdown test, this time against the Blue Bombers, provides another such opportunity.

With full knowledge that the all-access Magic Kingdom pass is set to expire.

Not that Nick Arbuckle feels the theme park is anywhere near set close on him. Quite the contrary, as a matter of fact.

“Hey, I’m still here,’’ he jabs good-naturedly. “I’m still at Disneyland.

“We won a Grey Cup last year. I only played a couple plays, on short yardage. But we were Grey Cup champions, and I did my part – whatever I could – in every game to help the team win. Winning is all that matters.

“Whatever it takes from me to that end, whatever role I have to play, that’s what I want to do.

“Whether that was converting a third-and-one or scoring a touchdown. Whether that puts me as the starter or the back-up.

“If it happens next game or the game after that, I’ll be ready for it. I just hope at the end of things we can win another Grey Cup.

“That’s all that any of us wants.

“So whatever happens, I’ll still be at Disneyland, having fun, you know.

“Enjoying all the rides.”