The Fulcrum sat down with the Gees receiver to discuss his time at the U of O, signing with the Roughriders
This year, Mitchell Baines emerged as a lethal downfield weapon for the University of Ottawa men’s football team. The fifth-year receiver averaged 123 yards per game and collected eight touchdowns, clinching stats good enough to place him first and second in each category, respectively, in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) conference.
Following his breakout year, Baines was named a first-team OUA all-star and second-team U Sports All-Canadian. His great numbers and awards earned him some recognition professionally, since he was recently signed by the Saskatchewan Roughriders and will attend training camp in May.
The transition in five years for Baines has been amazing. Going from no receptions in his first year to averaging 8.1 per game is nothing to sneeze at. His long receptions will definitely be missed.
The Fulcrum sat down with him to talk about his experience with the Gee-Gees and what he expects going forward in his career.
The Fulcrum: Can you talk about your progression from year one to five?
Mitchell Baines: Every single year I tried to get better. A lot of it too is who you are playing beside. I was with Ian Stewart before, who was first team All-Canadian, so you’re not going to get the amount of opportunities when you have a guy like that on your team. So when he graduated, I went into the year knowing that I would probably be the guy, so I pretty much did everything I could so I could be able to replace this guy.
F: Could you talk about your relationship with Gee-Gees’ ex-quarterback Derek Wendel?
MB: He came in with me my first-year, so we were rookies together. I’ve known Derek for pretty much forever now. We clicked well. We work together all the time in the off-season. We are almost in each other’s head at this point. He knows when I’m going to make an adjustment on a route and I know what he expects from me too.
F: With your team leading the OUA in throwing yards, was that something that your coach put a lot of emphasis on?
MB: I mean, coach (Jamie) Barresi is the best offensive mind I have ever been around, and he put a lot of emphasis on the passing game. He kind of knew our strengths. He knows we have Derek, who probably is the best quarterback in the country. He’s going to do his best to take advantage of that. He’s always finding the holes in the defense. He’s always figuring out the adjustment we have to make this game. Coach Barresi definitely played a huge part in our passing game.
F: What does it mean to get signed with the Roughriders, following five years of U Sports football?
MB: To me it means everything. It’s my lifelong dream and I know the hard work is just beginning. I haven’t been guaranteed anything. I have to go to the training camp. I got to do well there, and I’m working my butt off to make sure everything happens at this point so I can actually suit up for them.
F: What’s one of your best memories with the Gee-Gees over the past five years?
MB: I would say my first year starting, in 2014, in my first ever playoff game: we were playing against Windsor. Earlier in the year they had beat us by like 30 points. I had been sick all week (prior to the playoff game), so I wasn’t able to practice. We go (to Windsor) as huge underdogs. I ended up scoring the first touchdown of the game. We attempted an onside kick, and I recovered the onside kick, and I remember I was so sick at that point, I just felt like throwing up all over the field. Everyone was staring at me. I don’t think they realized how sick I was during that game.
F: While averaging more than 13 yards per catch in your U Sports career, you were definitely considered a deep threat. Is that something that you want to bring to the Roughriders?
MB: I definitely do consider myself a deep threat. For me it’s just every single time there is a jump ball, a 50/50 ball, i’m telling myself I’m going to win this battle. I never want to lose a 50/50 battle. Worst case it’s an incomplete. Best case I’m coming down with it. If it’s a 50/50 ball, I always want to win that.
F: Going into your training camp, is there one specific thing that you are trying to work on?
MB: For me … I’m trying to stay strong in the gym. For the pro game it’s so fast, and that’s why I’m doing a lot of speed training. I got to make sure I’m up to speed at that level. So for me … I got to stay as strong and fast as possible, because you are going up against pros now, not against a bunch of college kids.