For several former Eastern Washington stars, the upcoming Canadian Football League season offers more than a little drama.
The storylines span the country as CFL fans await the season opener on June 14.
In Calgary, former Eagles quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell hopes to win a Grey Cup title after falling just short the past two years.
A few hours north, Edmonton Eskimos linebacker J.C. Sherritt is fully recovered from an Achilles injury and recently signed a new three-year contract.
In Winnipeg, quarterback Matt Nichols is looking for more after establishing himself as one of the league’s top players.
Meanwhile, cornerback T.J. Lee III is coming off a big year for the British Columbia Lions, where he plays alongside another former All-Big Sky performer in Tevin McDonald.
More Eagles are joining the trek north. Wide receiver Shaq Hill is trying to catch on in Winnipeg, while recent graduate Victor Gamboa signed only last week with the Ottawa Redblacks.
The biggest story for Eastern fans is the enduring success of Mitchell, who led the Eagles to the FCS national title in 2010 and followed that with the Walter Payton Award in 2011.
Mitchell caught on with Calgary from the beginning, and by his third season in 2014, he was hoisting the Grey Cup trophy.
Twice in the last two years, Mitchell took the Stampeders to the title game only to lose heartbreakers to Ottawa (39-33 in 2016) and Toronto (27-24 last year).
Mitchell spent much of the offseason recovering from what he called “small frays” in his throwing shoulder. Doctors opted against surgery – a good decision, as it turned out, as Mitchell proclaimed himself in perfect health.
“I’m focused on so many small muscles on my shoulder that I’ve really started to neglect over the years, I’m relying on my throwing motion, and it’s starting to get back to that point where I can rip the ball 100 percent with no pain,” Mitchell told a Calgary radio station.
Last year, Mitchell’s 4,700 passing yards and 8.6 yards per attempt were the second-highest in his career, while he finished the season with 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
“It was a different year, I wouldn’t say off year,” Mitchell said.
Meanwhile, Nichols and the Blue Bombers opened camp Sunday with 100 fans on hand.
“It felt great, honestly. The energy was incredible out here – the guys were flying around,” Nichols told the Winnipeg Free Press.
The 31-year-old Nichols, the leading career passer in EWU history, is coming off a big year in which he completed 411 of 579 passes (71 percent) for 4,472 yards, 28 touchdowns and eight picks.