It started when he took over future NFL quarterback Andy Dalton’s previous duties at Texas powerhouse Katy High School, won a state title and earned the starting job as a true freshman at Southern Methodist.
It continued at Eastern Washington after things went sideways for Bo Levi Mitchell at SMU, leading EWU to a Football Championship Subdivision title in 2010 before he won the nation’s top offensive honor, the Walter Payton Award, in 2011.
Mitchell continued his winning ways in the Canadian Football League, helping the Calgary Stampeders reach four Grey Cups in five years.
The 30-year-old Mitchell – now the CFL’s second-highest-paid player at roughly $700,000 a year – recently earned another impressive distinction.
Mitchell was given a first-team nod on the CFL’s All-Decade Team, the product of a 77-18 record as a starter, 27,937 yards and 169 touchdowns, and two CFL MVPs.
He sees more winning ahead of him.
“Just the way I’ve carried myself, I’ve always strived to be the guy,” said Mitchell, who transferred to EWU in 2010 after losing his starting job at SMU. “And at the professional level, everyone has been the guy at their college, so preparation is big.
“(This award) shows my body of work the past eight years and how much pride I take in the job.”
Former EWU defensive back Ryan Phillips was also a first-team pick.
Several All-Decade selections hailed from the Big Sky Conference, including Calgary head coach Dave Dickenson, a former CFL quarterback who led Montana to a national title in 1995.
“Dave is a lot like (former EWU head coach Bo) Baldwin,” Mitchell said. “They’re good at predicting what teams are going to throw at our offense.
“As you get up here, you meet more and more guys who played in the Big Sky or EWU. There’s been so many guys. We’ve kind of pushed each other.”
Before the coronavirus led to the cancellation of the CFL’s 2020 season, three of the league’s nine teams were likely to have a starting quarterback from EWU, including Mitchell at Calgary, Matt Nichols with the Toronto Argonauts and Vernon Adams with the Montreal Alouettes.
Mitchell reportedly generated NFL interest following the 2018 season and before signing a four-year, $2.8 million deal to stay in Canada, but he wasn’t interested in holding a clipboard as a backup.
After going undrafted by the NFL in 2012, Mitchell joined the Stampeders that spring, earning his first CFL start in 2013.
He swiftly adjusted to the Canadian game.
“The toughest part isn’t adjusting to 12 guys on the field, but the pre-snap motions,” he said. “Keeping your eyes on the defensive backs, adjusting to their coverages.
“Being able to pick up the blitz was my saving grace. Up here defenses like to heat you up.”
In EWU’s 2010 national title run, Mitchell orchestrated several late, game-winning drives, often with a pass to All-American receiver and 6-foot-5 target Brandon Kaufman.
“Now I have a guy like (Kaufman) up here in Eric Rogers,” Mitchell said. “A big, athletic receiver I can just put it up there for and they’ll get it.”
Mitchell, Kaufman, and ex-EWU receivers Nick Edwards and Greg Herd won the school’s 3-on-3 basketball tournament back in college, Mitchell said, beating a team that had two players on the school’s basketball team in the championship.
“It wasn’t because of anything I did,” Mitchell said. “Those receivers I had at EWU were good athletes.”
Phillips was BC’s Ironman
Phillips, now a defensive backs coach with the BC Lions, was a shutdown player for the same organization.
He rarely missed a game.
The former All-Big Sky Conference cornerback and kick returner played in 181 straight CFL games, missing only four games in his 12-year career.
Phillips, 38, was a five-time CFL All-Star and helped the BC Lions win two Grey Cups.
“Forever thankful to God and humbled,” Phillips said on Twitter after being named to the All-Decade Team. “Thanks to family, friends, teammates, coaches and every fan across Canada.
“The memories are priceless and the blessings are beyond measure. Hopefully on to the (CFL Hall of Fame).”
Phillips owns several BC Lions records, including most single-season interceptions (12) and most career defensive touchdowns (6).
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