‘Unfinished business’: Ticats’ QB Bo Levi Mitchell has no plans to retire

Photo courtesy: Bob Butrym/RFB Sport Photography

If retirement was supposed to be in his plans this offseason, quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell didn’t get the memo.

The soon-to-be 12-year veteran emphatically told the Eatin’ Em Raw Podcast that he never pondered his post-playing future, insisting there is something he has to take care of first.

“(I have) unfinished business here in Hamilton and just in my career in general, I’m not ending on a bad year,” Mitchell said. “I’m not ending on a bad season of me being unlucky and breaking my ankle.”

“There was no way that I’ll ever walk away from the game like that and I still feel like I have a lot to give. I’ve talked to a lot of guys when it comes to retirement, and I’ve heard ‘You’ll know when you know.’ Right now, that’s just not how I feel, that’s not where my head’s at. My head’s at playing football.”

The 34-year-old had a tumultuous 2023 campaign, starting only six games and missing time with an adductor injury and a fractured ankle. When he was on the field, Mitchell completed 59.1 percent of his passes for 1,031 yards, six touchdowns, and ten interceptions, posting a 2-4 record.

Mitchell returned from his ankle injury for the latter part of the Ticats’ season, suiting up in Week 18, 19 and 21 before giving way to Matthew Shiltz, who started Hamilton’s East Semi-Final loss in Montreal. Mitchell saw time late in that contest but was unsuccessful in generating a miracle comeback. The controversial move sparked skepticism from Mitchell about returning to Steeltown in 2024.

Cooler heads prevailed as the two sides came to an agreement which saw Mitchell take a substantial pay cut to remain in black and gold through 2025. Mitchell originally signed a three-year, $1.62 million contract with the Ticats last January and was due to make $522,000 in hard money this season.

“It was a marriage of decisions, right? It would only be right for the team for me to come back if we could get to a certain number, and for me, it was about if I was truly wanted,” Mitchell said.

“Your reason doesn’t always come down to money. In my mind, last year, I made a commitment to this team and this city of what I wanted to do. I’ve always said that I don’t want to be the guy that bounces around in his career, goes to a couple of different teams, and just tries to collect a paycheque. I came to Hamilton for one reason and that was to make sure that at some point in my tenure here, there was a Grey Cup banner hanging that starts with 20 instead of 19.”

There was some surprise around the league that the Katy, Tex. native returned for another season, as Mitchell’s game has steadily declined since last winning the Most Outstanding Player Award in 2018. He has struggled with inconsistency and injuries but has never listened to those writing him off.

“I learned a long time ago to not buy into what people are saying. Because for one, when you read a lot of positive things, you’re just getting built up by false advertising and people telling you how great you played and how great you are,” Mitchell said.

“Those things build up in your head but not in a positive way. Same thing when it comes to the negatives. You’ve got to take everything that people say with a grain of salt. An athlete’s job is to keep the blinders on and stay focused on what you’re doing. Because we know what’s happening on the field, we know what’s happening in the film room. We see what’s happening on a day-to-day basis and my job is to ignore overly positive people, overly negative people and go out there and keep performing.”

Couple Mitchell’s poor play with a rocky 8-10 season and it’s understandable why fans in Tigertown are hesitant to assume Mitchell will bounce back to his old MOP form. Still, the former two-time Grey Cup Most Valuable Player believes he and the Tiger-Cats can prove the naysayers wrong with the help of new head coach Scott Milanovich.

“We all believe in Scott and what he does, so the truth is I think it starts with him. He’s a guy that has done a lot of great things in this league, as well as the NFL — really just anywhere he’s been, even as a player. When you believe in a guy, you tend to sit in meetings a little taller, you tend to have your ears a little more open, and I saw that with the entire room whenever he was speaking,” said Mitchell.

“When you’re building that kind of room, what happens is everybody starts holding each other accountable and everybody’s positive about that criticism. My offensive line can come talk trash to me, my defensive line can come talk trash to me, and I see it as my brothers challenging me to get better. That’s when you know you’ve got a great room.”

“I can tell you that’s what we had, that’s what we’re building, and that’s why I think we’re going to be better this year.”

Mitchell and the Ticats will open their 2024 regular season by visiting the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium on Friday, June 7.

Troy Durrell is a University of Calgary and Southern Alberta Institute of Technology graduate. He covers the CFL and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.