By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
Mitchell Gale’s first season in the Canadian Football League with the Toronto Argonauts was an education both athletically and culturally.
The former Alva and Abilene Christian University quarterback had a little bit of “culture shock’’ at first getting used to living not only outside of the United States but in a city of 3.5 million.
“It was a good experience,’’ he said. “I wasn’t used to the traffic and congestion of a big city, but I like all the kinds of different cultures and different lifestyles.’’
Some of his teammates were seniors in high school when Gale was born.
“It was quite a collection,’’ Gale said. “There was a wide range of ages. It was a good chance to see the other side of life.’’
Gale spent nine weeks on the injured list more for procedural reasons. The Argos wanted to keep him, but he if went on the practice roster, another team could have picked him up.
He was activated for four games into the second half of the season. Gale completed three of nine passes for 36 yards and had three carries for 14 yards.
Gale’s biggest challenge was adjusting to CFL rules — 12 players, three downs instead of four for a first down and a wider and longer field. The CFL uses a 20-second instead of a 40-second play clock.
“That makes for a different pace of play,’’ Gale said. “If I went to the NFL, it would have been an adjustment, but even more so in the CFL. The first year is more of a matter of getting your feet wet, getting into the style of the game and learning the game.’’
Gale said “football is football,’’ in comparing the Canadian and American games. He said he had to have a different mindset in the CFL.
“For the most part, it’s understanding the concepts,’’ Gale said. “You run a play and all of a sudden it’s second and long and you have to convert.
There’s more pressure on situational downs. You have to be more consistent. It’s a lot to get used to.’’
With one less down, there’s less room for error, he said.
“The way (American) quarterbacks make their mark is converting on third down,’’ he said. “In the CFL, you have to do it in two. You’ve got to make plays and make the players around you better and then do it all over again.’’
Gale did not feel any rookie harassment or any difficulties gaining respect of teammates who were 10 or more years older than he was.
“They’re pros,’’ he said. “They get paid for their craft and skills. They understand how things are going to work and how you’re suppose-d to do things. You work together. Everybody does their part.’’
He had a good relationship with Argos starting quarterback Ricky Ray, an 11-year veteran.
“He’s a great guy who’s been around the block a couple of times,’’ Gale said. “We had a lot of conversations about what he’s looking at and what hesees on the field. It was a great experience.
I’m grateful to learn from a guy who’s done it all over.’’
The game was much faster than he was accustomed to at Division II Abilene Christian.
“A lot of guys on the defensive line have been in the NFL,’’ Gale said. “It was a taste of the big time. You have to know where you’re going with the ball and get it out of your hands quickly.’’
The 6-foot-2 Gale said he “is not going to out run anybody,’’ but is quick enough to get away and make five yards when he had to scramble.
“By no means I’m a dual threat,’’ he said. “I’m up there because I can throw the football. I know if I get a chance to throw the ball, I can consistently show what I can do. I can manage a game and make people better and have good success.’’
Gale said CFL teams still have to be able to run the ball to have success.
“If you can do both, you’re a lot more potent on offense,’’ he said.
The Argos play in a dome stadium — Rogers Centre — so weather wasn’t a major problem. The season ends in mid-November.
He also learned football, unlike at Alva or Abilene Christian, was a business first.
“It’s a little different mindset when you’re getting a paycheck after a game,’’ Gale said. “That’s was one of my big adjustments. I was so used to NCAA regulations and conduct, I was a little hesitant ... then I remembered ‘oh yeah, this is why I’m up here for. This is a job and I’m getting paid for it.’ It was cool getting paid for something I’ve done my whole life.’’
While some CFL players have other jobs, Gale was able to concentrate fully on football.
Having his dad (Steve) being his high school coach, helped him adjust to going from high school and college star to backup.
“That was one of the advantages of having a dad being a coach,’’ he said. “You learn this is a process of getting better and understanding the game better. I love to be out there playing, but you have to first learn how to play the game. When I do get that chance, I want to put my best foot forward to be a consistent and efficient part of the offense.’’
That meant watching a lot of film.
“I would rather watch 50 hours of film than go to one hour of class,’’ said Gale, who earned his degree in kinselogy at ACU. “I’m grateful I got my degree, but it’s nice to be able to focus solely on football. It’s something I’ve always dreamed of.’’
His major disappointment was Toronto losing in the CFL semifinals after winning the Grey Cup in 2012.
“We didn’t make the plays when we needed to,’’ Gale said. “But again, it was a good experience for me. I’m really excited about the future.’’
He will work out in the Alva area until he goes to a mini-camp in Florida in mid-April. Training camp is set for May.
“There are some guys still around that I can throw to,’’ Gale said. “Of course, I can still get my mom and dad out there and throw to them.’’