Bill Mitchell played nine successful seasons in the Canadian Football League with Toronto, Edmonton, and Vancouver in the 1960s. He briefly held the world record for the longest field goal in a game of football.
Mitchell was born in Harrow, England, on August 2, 1935. He moved to Windsor in March 1947, aged 11, with his family.
Mitchell attended Kennedy Collegiate from 1950 to ’55, where he was a three-time All-City selection in football and a member of the ’54 WSSA and WOSSA championship teams. Notably, Mitchell’s Clippers defeated the London Central Golden Ghosts 8-7 in the WOSSA finals, ending the Ghosts’ 38-game undefeated streak.
In 1955, his senior year, Mitchell also played for the Windsor AKO Jets, which lost 19-13 in the “Little Grey Cup” Canadian Finals to the Winnipeg Rods.
During his time at Kennedy, Mitchell also enjoyed a successful track and field career, during which he set WSSA Senior Boys records in shot put, javelin, and pole vault en route to winning a Canadian Championship in javelin and discus in Saskatoon.
After high school, Mitchell attended the University of Western Ontario, where he played football under John Metras. Mitchell turned down the University of Michigan, which had recruited him for its track and field team but would not have permitted him to play football. With Mitchell playing centre, guard, tackle, and end while also punting and kicking field goals, the Mustangs won CIAU Championships in 1957 and ’59. He was a four-time OUAA All-Star and recipient of the ’59 Omega Award for the League’s Outstanding Player.
Mitchell graduated from Western with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 1960. He also took an Honours Physical Education Degree from McMaster and immediately embarked upon a teaching career.
Mitchell enjoyed a nine-year spell in the CFL, during which he started consistently for Toronto, Edmonton, and British Columbia. In 1960, Mitchell’s linebacker play for the Toronto Argonauts earned him Rookie of the Year in the Eastern Big Four and a nomination for the Schenley Award for the league’s Most Outstanding Canadian. He was a league All-Star in both the ’61 and ’62 seasons.
Prior to the 1963 season, Mitchell was traded to the Edmonton Eskimos for the legendary player Jackie Parker. Mitchell switched to centre in Edmonton, where he earned a second Schenley Award nomination in his second season. On August 4, 1964, Mitchell kicked a 58-yard field goal in Calgary to set a CFL and world record.
Mitchell moved to the British Columbia Lions between the ’65 and ’66 seasons, where he spent his final three seasons in the CFL. He received the 1968 CFL Players Association Award for sportsmanship and dedication to the league and the community.
Mitchell continued to teach throughout his professional football career. He taught for 35 years in total, including an 8-year spell as a counselor at the end of his career. He worked at Toronto’s Mimico High School, Ross Sheppard High School in Edmonton, and Centennial High School in Toronto.
Mitchell’s CFL record was broken by one yard in 1970 by Dave Cutler of the Edmonton Eskimos. Coincidentally, Cutler had been a student teacher under Mitchell when he was teaching in Vancouver.
Following his CFL career, Mitchell took up residence in Coquitlam, British Columbia. He retired from teaching in 1996 but remained active in the community and assisted for many years with the Special Olympics, the B.C. Games, and the B.C. Lions’ public relations operations.
Mitchell was inducted into the University of Western Ontario’s “W” Club Athletic Hall of Fame in 1979.