Retirement is a four letter word in the minds of many great athletes, but Calgary Stampeders’ quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell is allowing himself to utter it far more frequently than ever before.
The 32-year-old is preparing for a resurgent 2022 CFL campaign after battling through the most difficult stretch of his career, but the two-time Most Outstanding Player knows he won’t be able to play forever. While retirement is not in his immediate plans, no season after this one are guaranteed.
“That very well could be the next step,” Mitchell said on 980 CJME’s The Green Zone. “I think that word, if you try to hide from it, it’s inevitably going to find you. We’re all going to pass one day and we’re all going to retire from our sport or our job. There’s a lot of things that are inevitable and that is definitely one of them.”
That inescapable reality has hovered over Mitchell as a string of injuries have hampered him the last two seasons. A labral tear in his throwing shoulder in 2019 cost him time and resulted in off-season surgery, but continued to ail him throughout last season. Coming off of the CFL’s coronavirus imposed hiatus, he also missed the majority of 2021 training camp with groin soreness, before missing three games with a fractured fibula suffered in Week 1.
The compounding injuries visibly frustrated Mitchell throughout the year, leading to speculation around retirement in the media and in the quarterback’s own mind.
“I won’t lie, I think that word flirts with a lot of guys after championships and after really big injuries when they don’t respond the way they want. Because if you wake up every morning and you don’t feel like yourself, it’s really hard to get out there and perform,” Mitchell explained.
“It’d be like giving a guitar to a guitar player, taking away three of his strings and just saying do your best. I’m sure he can still do something amazing and Jimi Hendrix could make it work, but there’s a lot of guys out there that need all five strings and I’m one of them.”
“I’m not a runner, I have a very limited arsenal of tools that I use and I need every single one of them. I want to feel like myself when I’m playing football and the day that I don’t see that ever coming back then I will be done.”
That stage has not yet been reached, as Mitchell has been able to recommit himself to training this offseason, instead of just focusing on rehab. He no longer dreads the tedious parts of his workouts, feeling better than he has in years.
“I feel strong, I feel confident, which is nice. The confidence really hasn’t been there for probably a year-and-a-half to two years, the way I’m sure you guys are used to and probably hate, to be honest,” Mitchell laughed.
“Last year was a question mark. Last year, I was showing up to camp wondering what was going to happen and wondering how I was going to feel. Even though I was grinding and I was training, I never felt like myself. I was waiting for that eureka moment to feel like myself again. I think training this year has been a lot different and I’m just excited to go to work with the boys.”
A return to form from their veteran quarterback could prove to be the boost that the Stampeders’ fading dynasty needs, but all will be faced with tough questions if Mitchell can’t recapture their Grey Cup glory. In the end, the word he doesn’t want to say may be the most viable answer.