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Rookie WR Mital aiming for consistency with Argonauts

Kevin Mital Kevin Mital - The Canadian Press

It didn't take Kevin Mital long to realize he's a professional football player now.

The former Laval star was on the field Wednesday when the Toronto Argonauts opened rookie camp at the University of Guelph. And what really stood out to the 2022 Hec Crighton Trophy-winning receiver was the overall speed of the pro game.

"Everything goes fast," Mital said. "You've got to learn the whole playbook, new terms.

"You've got to speak the same language as the coaches but they do a great job of taking time to tell us what to do. It's pretty fun and exciting."

The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind for the 26-year-old Saint-Hubert, Que., native. He was taken in the first round, fifth overall, by Toronto in the CFL draft April 30, signed his rookie deal, packed all of his belongings and moved out of his apartment in Quebec City and brought only what he needed to Guelph, Ont., for rookie camp.

"I've been in a rush for the last week or so," Mital said. "But now is the fun part, to play football and try to learn everything and show the coaches they made a good decision by picking me."

Veterans report for the start of training camp Sunday.

Mital had 22 catches for 280 yards and three touchdowns in four games with Laval last season. But in 2022, the six-foot-one, 229-pound Mital led U Sports in catches (58) and yards (751) with 12 TDs in eight games to become the first receiver to win the Hec Crighton Trophy since Western's Andy Fantuz in '05.

Mital capped his stellar campaign by being named the Vanier Cup's outstanding player. He secured the honour after registering eight catches for 142 yards and a touchdown in Laval's 30-24 win over the Saskatchewan Huskies.

Mital also excelled at the CFL's national combine in March. He posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.58 seconds and a 35-inch vertical leap while registering 20 reps in the 225-pound bench press.

All of which has placed the weight of expectation squarely upon Mital's shoulders.

"Of course, there's a lot of pressure," he said. "When you're the first pick of a team I think the only thing you can do is disappoint people.

"You can't surprise anyone so I'm just trying not to disappoint anyone and show what I did at the combine is something I can do for a CFL team. It's all about having a short memory and being consistent every day . . . I think consistency is a big word in pro football."

Toronto needed a Canadian receiver after sending all-star Kurleigh Gittens Jr. to Edmonton in an off-season deal that brought veteran American defensive lineman Jake Ceresna, another all-star, to the Argos. While Gittens' departure creates an opportunity for playing time, Mital isn't worrying about that.

"The coaches want the best players on the field and I'll do the best I can to be the best player I can," he said. "The only thing in my hands right now is the tape I'm putting down for the coaches.

"I'm trying to show I can play on special teams, I can block on special teams and on offence, I can catch the football. Just show how versatile I can be on the field."

Mital said his time at Laval prepared him well for CFL life.

"I think all of the coaches (at Laval) can coach at the pro level," Mital said. "That's why all of the guys from Laval who went to the combine, we were the most prepared for testing.

"We already know how to treat our bodies like pros, we know how to train like pros, how to practise. I think that's a big advantage of being at Laval, you're very well prepared for what's next."

And after years of juggling academics with football while working part-time, Mital said it's a relief to finally be able to concentrate solely on being a professional athlete.

" That's a huge (weight) off my shoulders," he said. "It (university life) is not easy because we still have classes to pass to be eligible (to play football).

"I wanted to be in an apartment by myself and had a lot of things to pay for so I had two jobs. Now all of those elements are combined: It's a job, I'm playing football and I don't have school anymore so that's pretty cool."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 8, 2024.