Mitchell a standout amongst CFL prospects

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:43 AM ET

For as long as he can remember, Scott Mitchell has had a football in his hands.

Or a hockey stick, or a lacrosse stick, or a basketball. That’s if there was not a soccer ball at his feet or if he was not doing lengths in a swimming pool.

Though sports always have been in his blood, it’s all about football now for Mitchell, who is ranked No. 2 by the Canadian Football League scouting bureau for the Canadian draft on May 8.

Born in Montreal and raised there and in Ottawa, Mitchell spent the past four years establishing himself as a blue-chip prospect on the offensive line at Rice University in Houston. The career will culminate during the second week of May, when he is drafted, possibly first overall, and graduates six days later with a degree in sports management.

Mitchell is just one of approximately 55 prospects who will be tested physically and in interviews by CFL personnel this weekend at the league’s annual evaluation camp at a downtown Toronto hotel. Among them are 2010 Hec Crighton winner Brad Sinopoli and Michael Knill, who transferred to Wilfrid Laurier after playing at both Michigan and Michigan State and could set a bench-press record at the camp.

The 6-foot-4, 295-pound Mitchell has played at every level of football that is available to a young athlete, whether it has been in high school, for the city of Ottawa, the Ontario Varsity Football League, at the provincial level and for Team Canada.

Stepping on to an expansive green CFL gridiron is the natural next step.

“Every football camp there was, I tried to be there,” Mitchell said. “Around the time of my sophomore year at Rice, I started to think I could play pro.”

Playing football at any college in the U.S. is as much about the sport as it is about getting a degree, but academics are a large part of the athlete’s life at Rice. For Mitchell, who was waiting out the fog at an airport in Houston on Thursday morning while he spoke to a reporter on his cellphone, turning a blind eye to the extracurriculars around him was paramount.

“I think the hardest thing since I started training for this has been avoiding temptations,” Mitchell, 21, said. “There are always guys who want to party, who want you to come and have a drink. But you can’t.”

As a group, the prospects comprise a strong draft class.

“This year breaks a trend a bit,” TSN football analyst Duane Forde said. “For the past seven years or so, it has gone back and forth, and this should have been a down year. But it’s actually a deep class.”

What each of the players who are picked on Mother’s Day will have to realize is the chance that he starts for CFL team coming out of training camp is unlikely. The majority of players, whether it is through observation, backing up or playing on special teams, need at least a season to become smart enough with the CFL game to start.

Argonauts general manager/head coach Jim Barker said just once — with the Calgary Stampeders in 2003, when he drafted Steve Morley — has he taken a player with the intention of starting that player immediately.

For Mitchell and his peers, the evaluation camp is about ensuring their places in each of the teams’ draft orders. Each player knows he will not have another chance to make a stable, in-person first impression.

Mitchell can’t help but look ahead to the draft itself. As of today, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have the first pick and GM Joe Mack has said he intends to keep it.

“The (evaluation) camp is about putting it all together,” Mitchell said. “But going No. 1, that would be awesome, a dream come true. Since I was a kid, it has been a dream to play pro football. Now, with the camp, I want to see how I have done.”

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/koshtorontosun


Photos