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Author Topic: "This is a team people want to play for" | Mitchell joins the Blue & Gold  (Read 1615 times)
Posts: 11911

Blue Bombers and Fans

« on: February 11, 2021, 04:33:52 AM »

"This is a team people want to play for" | Mitchell joins the Blue & Gold

Quiet as a church mouse in the opening hours of free agency, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers unleashed a roar on the second day of the annual talent grab that could be heard across the Canadian Football League.

Vowing to be spectators on the eve of the market opening after concentrating on locking up much of the core from the 2019 Grey Cup team, the Bombers reversed course and landed a marquee receiver in Bryant Mitchell on Day 2, inking the game-changing playmaker to a one-year contract. And, interestingly, the new alliance began with a playful tweet he sent out, and then an inquiry from the Bombers as he quickly became a target for the club.

"It's funny, I was actually talking to Darren (Cameron, Bombers Senior Director of Player and Public Relations) early (Tuesday) morning about an article that came out about the rankings of the free agents," began Mitchell in a media conference call from his home in Houston, Texas. "I made a joke about how I should be higher in the rankings.

"He responded to it and from there we just got to chatting. Long story short it came to, 'Hey, we would love to have you here.' I thought about Winnipeg before... they were actually a place where I thought I was going to sign before I re-signed in 2016 in Edmonton after being cut in '15.

"I've heard such great things. Many of the players reached out to me, many players I've known who have played there in the past have told me great things about it. So, for me it was really a no brainer... with Zach Collaros reaching out, (Pat) Neufeld, Yoshi (Jermarcus Hardrick), Willie Jefferson, even Darren (Cameron), Coach O'Shea, Coach Pierce. Those things really touched me and made me feel like this is home."

Bryant's numbers in his last year in the CFL were simply sensational. In just 11 games with Edmonton in 2018, he pulled in 60 passes for 867 yards and three touchdowns.

Those gaudy stats first led to a shot with the Arizona Cardinals in 2019 and following his release, he was signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a week later. He had five catches for 32 yards in the Bucs' first preseason game against Pittsburgh that summer, but also suffered a torn Achilles tendon that ended his season. Tampa brought him back in 2020, but he was released in their final cutdown.

He had informal chats about coming back to Tampa in the fall, but the club then inked veteran Antonio Brown and ultimately won the Super Bowl last Sunday.

"It's so funny, I think the Tom Brady question is the No. 1 asked question I get from being on that team," Mitchell said. "I learned so much. Gronk's (tight end Rob Gronkowski) a great guy. He's funny. Gronk's a big kid. Honestly, Tom's a big kid as well. You'd be shocked... as much as you guys see on TV and as locked in as he is on game day and he's the same way at practice, he's such a big kid. Outside of practice his personality really shines. Both of theirs.

"Tom expects greatness and being the greatest of all time, in my opinion, that expectation is there as it was for Kobe Bryant, as it was for Michael Jordan, if you saw the documentary. I believe those same attributes shine through for any great player and when you're a great player you demand greatness around you."

Along the way Mitchell, 28, began exploring all his options in football - including a return to Canada. It's believed at least eight CFL teams had contacted him before he signed with the Bombers after the club put a full-court press on him with phone calls and texts from coaches and players to sell him on the organization.

Everyone raves about the culture, about the coaching staff, about the fans, everything about this organization," he said. "That, for me, spoke volumes about the things Coach O'Shea is doing, the things that Darren is doing, the things that our GM Kyle Walters is doing, even our CEO Wade Miller.

"Those things showed me that this is a place people want to be and this is a team people want to play for. And as family-oriented as it was, that stuck out. That's really what the message was and it sold me, honestly."

A well-spoken spiritual man, Mitchell also has a playful alter-ego. He's a big fan of superheroes, with Batman being his favourite - so much so that in many photos he is sporting the iconic bat logo on a T-shirt or a bandana worn under his helmet.

"They call me 'Batman'," said Mitchell. "The true story is I got it from my older brother. When we were young he was the Batman fan and I had to always be Robin, because he's older than me. One day I told him I was no longer being Robin, I'm Batman. Ever since then I've really taken a liking to Batman.

"What really grew on me was the love and admiration Batman had for his people, the way that he took care of his people, the way that he wouldn't kill anyone. He had a moral compass about him where he said, 'Hey, I'm going to do everything I can to clean up these streets and everything it takes to help people, but I'm going to do it all in love.' For me, being a Christian man, I believe a lot of those characteristics are Biblical. I just took a liking to him and the fact he has no super-powers really grew on me. He's definitely my favourite superhero. I do have others, but he?s definitely the main one."

Mitchell's numbers in Edmonton in 19 games spread out over parts of three seasons were 97 receptions for 1,418 yards and six touchdowns. Asked what he thought he would be capable of doing with a full season under his belt, Mitchell said "We're going to have to wait and see.?

He chuckled then, and when pressed if his numbers in '18 were a preview, added:

"I think in 2018 when I was actually able to play we got a preview of what I believe I can do. If we averaged that out I believe I would have been No. 2 in the league that year right behind Duke (Williams) by 60 yards based on averages.

"I truly believe that given the opportunity I can be successful, especially with such a great team like this and a group of guys who are so humble and unselfish, from what I've seen. I think it's going to be a great year and we're going to have a lot of fun. As a community, as fans, I think you guys are going to be very pleased with the progress and with what we do."

"You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one." - John Wooden
Hero Member
Posts: 544

« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2021, 11:04:27 AM »

I want to see the love after one year. One and done ?
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Posts: 25483

« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2021, 01:33:48 PM »

Kinda confirms what most of us already know, the culture and the coaching staff are the main reasons players come to and are retained by the Bombers.

Some people take this forum way too seriously.
Posts: 11911

Blue Bombers and Fans

« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2021, 10:54:23 PM »

First & 10 | Mitchell's Road to Winnipeg - Ed Tait

There's an excitement in his voice that simply doesn?t dip as a 30-minute conversation moves from one topic to the next, from the power outages around his home in Houston, Texas, to his sons, to his faith and his new chapter with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Bryant Mitchell is in go-go-go mode, as if the gas pedal in his life is permanently jammed down to the floorboards.

It's no wonder he's so excited, given what the 28-year-old receiver has been through over the last couple of seasons and the mental and physical wringer he's been pulled through to get to this point.

Yes, while there are many eager for the Canadian Football League to get back to business in 2021, it could be said Mitchell is at the very front of that pack.

"I'm ready to lace them up. I want to put some shoulder pads on and hit somebody in the mouth. I want to catch that touchdown and really show people who I am, not just through catching touchdowns, but how I live my life and how I?ve responded in the face of adversity. Those things matter to me."

Just over a week ago, Mitchell was introduced as a Blue Bomber in a media conference call. The game-breaking playmaker is one of the most intriguing signings in CFL free agency and was both engaging and confident in his interview, further fuelling the narrative the club had landed a good one in the open market.

During the interview, Mitchell focused on what is ahead for him in the Bombers offence and many of the reports after his session focused on his time last fall with the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers before his release.

What wasn't really explored in depth were the many mental and physical roadblocks he's had to work around since starring with the Edmonton Football Team in 2018.

And there have been many.

Consider that Mitchell left Edmonton by signing a free agent deal with the Arizona Cardinals, and was then scooped up by the Bucs after his release by the Cards. The Northwestern State product was tearing it up in a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in August of 2019 when his script changed. Mitchell had caught his fifth pass of the game on an exit screen when...

"I take a step or two and I hear this loud 'POP!'" he recalled. "As athletes we do things in milliseconds and in my mind I'm trying to process the moment. I knew where everyone was on the field and I knew there was no one behind me. I had heard before from other guys that an Achilles injury feels like someone had tripped you or kicked you in the back of your leg. I took another step and thought, 'That?s my Achilles.'

"I just dropped on the turf. During the play I had heard my coach yelling 'Get outside! Get outside!' I was heading outside and had I been able to finish, I probably would have broke for 60 (yards) because it was blocked up that well.

"But I took that step, my foot went flat and I dropped. And that was that."

Mitchell had surgery and the subsequent recovery wiped out his 2019 season. He was in a boot for 2 ? months and drove around from meeting to meeting on a scooter, prompting Tampa offensive consultant Tom Moore to dub him 'Scooter-Man.'

He then advanced to crutches, to wearing a shoe with a heel lift and then, finally, to a regular flat runner.

"It's a long process. It's like learning how to walk again," said Mitchell. "And then when COVID hit it delayed my rehab a bit, I was on my own after the training staff at Tampa had given me everything I had. That injury has taken people out completely. Many have bounced back, but many others don't play again.

"I had some kinks to work out when I first got back (during camp last summer), but by the end of it I was rolling. I felt like myself again. But it wasn?t just being back on the field that I was most appreciative of, it was just being able to run again. It was just a blessing to be able to simply run again."

More on Mitchell and other Blue Bombers and CFL-related topics in this week's edition of 1st & 10...

?I can say that, for sure,? began Mitchell in a chat with this week. ?That first game back for me? I?ll be like a child opening a present after waiting for so long, after hearing your mother say you have to be good before you can get it. Man, I?ve been itching.

?There was a point where I thought, ?I?m done.? But if I had stopped then I know I wouldn?t have been truly satisfied. When I signed that contract with Winnipeg I was so excited.?

"You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one." - John Wooden
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