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Bo Levi Mitchell is all business ahead of his return to Calgary for the Stampeders’ season opener

It’s been touted as a homecoming of sorts; Bo Levi Mitchell, the 34-year-old veteran quarterback who spent 10 seasons under centre for the Calgary Stampeders, is making his long-awaited return to the stadium where he set CFL records and lit up defences.

But for the man in the spotlight, it’s just business as usual.

“I’m just ready to go get my first win there,” Mitchell told the media in Hamilton after practice on Monday. “If anything I’m just excited to go play in front of the fans in a stadium that I’ve played in a lot and I’m familiar with.”

The Stampeders kick off their 2024 season on Friday night at McMahon Stadium against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats — the team that signed the Texas-born play-caller in January 2023.

Men's quarterback wearing a Stampeders uniform, prepares to throw the ball during a CFL game.
The former Stampeders quarterback is a two-time CFL all-star. (Larry MacDougal/Canadian Press/File)

Mitchell’s debut campaign with the Tiger-Cats was shortened because of injuries, ultimately preventing an earlier return to McMahon. The two-time Grey Cup MVP suited up and started six games in black and yellow in 2023.

The wait, Mitchell said, makes Friday night’s game more exciting.

“It’s something that I wanted to happen last year, but the year of suspense, I guess, makes it a little bit bigger,” he said. 

Mitchell was the CFL’s most outstanding player in both the 2016 and 2018 seasons. He led the franchise to 12 wins and one loss in 2014; a record that stands as the best for first-year starting quarterbacks.

Mitchell is the only Stampeder quarterback who has started and won the Grey Cup more than once. 

‘Bo knows us well, too’

After ending the 2023 season with a loss against the B.C. Lions in the west semifinal, Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson is focused on what happens on the field and not the narrative off it.

He’s going into his eighth season with the team, and an opening-day win would be a welcome start for the club after a record of 6-12 during last year’s campaign.

“None of us were happy with it, but it’s a new team,” Dickenson said, talking about last year. “I love Bo and all that, but we got to focus on the game … Everybody wants to start the season off with a win.”

The 51-year-old head coach was once in Mitchell’s position, when he made a return of his own to Calgary while playing with the B.C. Lions.

A football coach watches from the sidelines.
Calgary Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson watches from the sideline during the second half of a CFL football game against the B.C. Lions, in Vancouver, on August 12, 2023. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Having a former player on the other side, Dickenson said, is both a blessing and a curse.

“Bo knows us well, too. He knows the [defensive backs], he knows their tendencies,” he said. Reflecting on his own experience, he remembered then-B.C. head coach Wally Buono asking him to break the team down for the Lions ahead of the game.

“[Wally] said, ‘They’re coming after you,’ so I went after them,” Dickenson said. “That’s exactly Bo’s mentality, I’m going to guarantee you it’s ‘Go ahead, come after me, I’m coming after you.'”

After Friday night’s game, the Stampeders head to Vancouver for a rematch of last year’s west semifinal against the Lions. 

They’ll come back to McMahon for a showdown against last year’s Grey Cup runner-up, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, two weeks after that, before heading east to take on the defending champion Alouettes in Montreal to start July.

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