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Stampeders QB Bo Levi Mitchell prepares to build on impressive CFL career

CALGARY — Bo Levi Mitchell has time on his side. It's easy to forget the quarterback is just 27 years old given his achievements so far.

CALGARY — Bo Levi Mitchell has time on his side.

It's easy to forget the quarterback is just 27 years old given his achievements so far.

In three seasons as the Calgary Stampeders starter, Mitchell has won a Grey Cup (2014) and earned the CFL's Most Outstanding Player award (2016).

His 5,385 passing yards last season vaulted him into fifth all-time in franchise history. And his 43-7-1 regular-season record is a fast start to a career by any measure.

"I don't believe I've got close to my ceiling," Mitchell said Sunday on the opening day of Stampeders training camp. "I still see myself as a young guy, mobile when I have to be.

"I feel very good about where I can go from here and make sure I continue to get better every single day."

Head coach Dave Dickenson says he'll make sure that happens.

"As I got later in my (playing) career, it kind of bothered me (when) I didn't feel at times like the coaches coached me as hard as I should have been coached meaning that, yeah, they think you know everything and you've got this handled," Dickenson said.

"We'll continue to push Bo and he's a motivated man."

When Mitchell ticks off the names of quarterbacks he admires — Henry Burris, Anthony Calvillo, Ricky Ray and the NFL's Drew Brees and Peyton Manning — Mitchell points to their consistency and career longevity.

Mitchell has the time and talent to create his own football legacy. He wants to avoid extended absences from the field.

Mitchell's primary goal for himself in 2017 is stay healthy enough to play all 18 regular-season games.

"The goal is to be there for the guys," Mitchell explained. "When they look at me, they know it's reliability. 

"It's not 'who's at quarterback? Who is running the huddle?', so they just know I'm going to be there day in and day out.'"

The six-foot-two, 196-pound pivot from Katy, Texas didn't play every game the last two seasons only because the Stampeders secured first in the West Division early.

Mitchell sat out the regular-season finales to stay healthy and rested for the playoffs.

"He would have played 18 last year if I'd let him," Dickenson said.

Mitchell believes his off-season training regimen and experience on the field reduces the risk of a long-term injury.

"I think there's a certain way to train," he said. "I'm not going to give away my secrets to it because that's one of my advantages, is trying to be durable.

"If you're a NASCAR driver, you're going to put a lot of money into that car, so I put a lot of money into my body. I spend a lot of money every single week making sure my body is right and healthy and ready to go."

Entering his sixth CFL season, Mitchell says he's figured out when to take punishment and when to play it safe in a game.

"Understanding when to get down, when to go out of bounds, when to take the hit," he explained. "I applaud guys like (Edmonton's Mike) Reilly who will go out there and take a hit every single play.

"For me to be there all 18 games, I think there's times to do it and times not to."

Mitchell became a father in March when his wife Madison gave birth to daughter Ele (pronounced ELL-ee). The new dad says he isn't too sleep deprived to start camp.

"Our baby doesn't cry very much," Mitchell said. "As soon as I say that today, she'll start."

In camp news, offensive lineman Quinn Smith and defensive lineman Junior Turner will start the season on the six-game injured list because of off-season knee surgeries.

Veteran offensive linemen Dan Federkeil, Shane Bergman, and Deron Mayo are among players either sitting out or seeing limited reps to start training camp as they rehabilitate from various injuries.

Dickenson expects them to be ready for the season-opener June 23 in Ottawa against the Redblacks, who upset the Stampeders 39-33 in overtime to win the 2016 Grey Cup.

Still on the injury front, Stampeder general manager John Hufnagel's arm was in a sling Sunday. The 65-year-old former quarterback had reconstructive shoulder surgery earlier this month, said Dickenson.

"We kid around he must have hurt it fishing," the coach said.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press