What do Jared Goff, Patrick Mahomes and Nick Arbuckle have in common?
All three former NCAA Division I quarterbacks were among the top-10 in passing yards in 2015, which is some impressive company for the Calgary Stampeders back-up pivot. Mahomes was the National Football League’s MVP last season as the Kansas City Chiefs No. 1 and Goff’s Los Angeles Rams lost to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII.
But, in this city and in Canada now, Arbuckle is carving his own path. And, again, he’s finding himself among the best of the best.
Arbuckle has spent the last year learning from the top arm in the Canadian Football League — Bo Levi Mitchell — quietly observing, asking questions and picking up nuances from the Stampeders’ starter. It’s early in 2019, but some of what Arbuckle has picked up along the way was evident in Friday’s 37-1 preseason win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
“There were a lot throws that I made (Friday) and in training camp and practice that I’ve taken from (the throws) I’ve seen Bo make,” Arbuckle said over the weekend, following the Stampeders’ first test of the campaign. “I see him throw the diagonal on his second throw to Reggie (Begelton) and I came out and made pretty much the same play to Bresk (Juwan Brescacin) on my first throw.
“It’s just seeing on how he carries himself, not just on the field, but also as a pro in the locker room and treating his body right. I’ve been able to take a lot of those things and put them into my game and try to make myself better. There’s no better player to learn from when you’re behind the MOP.”
Arbuckle had a front-row seat in 2018 for one of Mitchell’s finest performances in the CFL, working as his understudy en route to a Grey Cup Championship. Mitchell, of course, claimed his second Most Valuable Player award and proved he is on his own planet when it comes to quarterbacks in the CFL.
It’s a huge benefit to the Stampeders to have the 25-year-old from Camarillo, Calif., learn from Mitchell, not only from a systems-perspective but on a professional development level.
A year ago, Arbuckle was thrust into the role after the unexpected retirement of Andrew Buckley, leaving the former Georgia State Panther to handle the short-yardage duties and to be relied upon in case of injury which was the case in Week 5. Mitchell went down and Arbuckle entered the game late in the second quarter, completing eight of 14 passes for 84 yards and nabbed his first career touchdown pass.
With an entire season under his belt and having Mitchell to provide guidance, it’s a much different feel in 2019 for the six-foot-one, 214-pounder.
For one, he feels a sense of ownership of the back-up position.
“Without a doubt,” he said. “Last year when I first came into training camp, a lot of it it was about learning the little things that make the Canadian game different and learning how to read defences when there’s a 12th guy on the field and you’re seeing a moving picture and you’re timing up motions. That’s kind of your main focus — try not to make mistakes and operate somewhat efficiently.”
Now, he’s able to slow things down on the field and have a wider depth of vision, allowing him to dive deeper into different reads and plays.
This year’s first preseason clash immediately went better than last year’s debut. Last year, his first pass was intercepted by a defensive lineman for a touchdown in the Stampeders’ friendly against the B.C. Lions.
“I was glad to get off on a better foot this preseason with my first throw,” Arbuckle said with a grin. “It was just fun being out there with the guys and getting all the hard work we’ve put in this training camp.
“It was a lot different experience than it was last year when it was my first time in preseason.”
On Friday, he completed eight-of-12 passes for 131 yards, threw a touchdown and ran one in, albeit against a rookie-laden Roughriders team. That being said, every rep is a chance for Arbuckle to test out his arm and what he’s been able to pick up from Mitchell.
“I want to always make sure I’m prepared for whatever moment comes,” Arbuckle said. “Whether it’s short yardage or we have a big lead and I get to come in to finish a game, it’s about always making sure I’m prepared.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019