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April 11, 2018

Bo Working Hard in the Off-Season

CALGARY, AB - JULY 29, 2017: The Calgary Stampeders won 60-01 against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at McMahon Stadium on Saturday night.

It’s partly cloudy on an easy-to-get-used-to 82-degree Fahrenheit mid-afternoon Monday as this town’s favourite transplanted Texan heads back from a workout to rented digs in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island.

“This,’’ explains Bo Levi Mitchell, “is my preferred training. Run outside and then hit the beach to do some sand footwork.

“Training with Jeff Garcia a couple years ago (on the sand in Carlsbad, Calif.), that’s one of the things I took away.

He loves training and throwing on the beach for footwork, to get that base.

“At the time, I thought: ‘Oh, this doesn’t make any sense at all.’ My feet kept slipping out from under me.

“Then when I got back onto solid ground to throw, I could tell the difference, the strength, of it.”

Not that this is a prototypical all-work-and-no-play-makes-Bo-a-dull-boy scenario.

Nor, however, is this excursion nothing more than a whirl of papaya and pineapple, gaudy Magnum PI-inspired short-sleeved shirts, Mai Tais, gently swaying palm trees and tiny plastic hula girls dancing to and fro on car dashboards.

The weather, the terrain and, yes, the amenities – for the QB, wife Madison and daughter Ele – represent a happy median.

“My wife’s birthday is on February 27, mine’s on March 3 and our daughter’s on March 9,’’ says Mitchell.

“So it’s been nice.

“This is something she and I have wanted to do for a while now: Get away every year. We use it for family time but it also allows me to get away from where people know me, get out there and just work my a— off.

“So there’s a good balance.

“We’re hoping to continue this. It has nothing to do with how the season played out. I might do the same thing even if we’d won the Grey Cup.”

In preparations for the upcoming season, Mitchell and middle linebacker Alex Singleton have added a U.K. import -personal trainer Tim Neenan – to the mix. Jeff Peach continues to aid in sharpening the 2016 MOP’s throwing mechanics and strengthening that meal-ticket right shoulder.

“Those guys,’’ Mitchell enthuses, “are both awesome. I started my training at the Olympic Centre at home, like to build a base there, with my group, Alex and all those guys.

“Tim helps me create that perfect program so that when I head off for a month – like now – I’ve got my plan in place.

“It’s pretty easy to push yourself when you’ve got a trainer sitting right there, watching you, telling you do every rep. But when you get into a gym, by yourself, I think it builds that mental toughness to make yourself finish.”

Mitchell begins his Hawaiian training day with a morning run, Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays, before heading off to a local football field for – among other things – hill sprints, then over to the gym for a 45-minute stretch/warm-up and a further 45 minutes on rehab, including a throwing program using a two-pound ball.

Depending, that work is often supplemented by another hour and a half of strength exercises.

“At the end of the day, I hit around three, three-and-a-half hours, depending on whether I’m throwing,’’ reckons Mitchell.

“Right now I’m up to four miles running – I don’t want to overhype it but today was the first time I’ve ever done that. I’ve never been able to run more than two in my life.

“So I’ve been able to hit that cardio and really go out there and kill it. That last half-mile is a sprint, my wife lets me know when I’ve got a half-mile left and I just … go.”

The brood returns home on March 12 in time for the Ignite Football Camp that Mitchell and Deron Mayo have created, running March 24-25 and April 7-8.

“Honestly, the game kinda sticks with me all winter, no matter how the season ends,’’ he says. “Losing in the West final in 2015, that one stuck with me a long time and obviously the last two years, the way it ended for us, is a driving motivation.”

The landscape, at least internally, will be different as Stamps’ training camp begins to come into sharper focus.
There’ll be no Charleston Hughes when they reconvene. No Rob Cote, either. No Tommie Campbell. No Dan Federkeil. No Jerome Messam. And no Marquay McDaniel, Mitchell’s security-blanket slotback in those fish-or-cut-bait moments.

But change, reckons the man behind the wheel, is only natural.

“I think it’s exciting, to be honest with you. I like a mix-up every once in a while which I guess is easy to say, being the QB who’s trying to stick around ’til he’s 40, like some of those other guys.

“But even for the players who’ve left … some guys need a change of scenery. It’s tough when you lose leaders but one thing I’ve noticed in the six, seven years I’ve been around is that somebody always fills that void.

“Some guys in the group are now gonna be like: ‘Know what? It’s my job to step up.’ Even myself, I need to be bit more of a leader with Cote gone. Cote’s been that wily vet for so long, the one giving out game balls and things like that, which is something I want to do this year.

“I think you’re going to see guys take it upon themselves to fill those roles. I think there’s nothing wrong with making your team younger, maybe a little bit more gritty as far as fighting for jobs.

“That creates an excitement around training camp and allows you to hit the ground running at full speed.

“That’s the thing about this organization. Personnel constantly changes but at the heart of it, the foundation, is to always play Stampeder football.

“And the ultimate goal, that never changes.”