One of Hamilton's favorite football sons appears set to retire as a Tiger-Cat.
But not quite yet.
The Tabbies' longest serving player, linebacker Rob Hitchcock, is set to add to his 11-year team tenure when he signs a new one-year plus a club option contract today.
The new pact could stretch the 35-year-old Hamilton native's employment history with his Balsam Avenue employer to a lucky 13-seasons by the time it expires.
But Hitchcock isn't ruling out a contract extension even after the latest one expires.
"As long as you stay healthy and are young at heart and you're out there competing with the younger guys, which I've been doing, there is no reason to retire and especially right now, that's for sure," the Glendale Secondary School product said yesterday.
Hitchcock, one of the hardest hitters ever to wear the black and gold in recent years, vows he has "tons of gas" left in his Tiger tank. He proved it last season by leading the Tabbies in special team tackles, finishing second in tackles and earning the club nod as special teams player of the year.
"I know I'm still producing on the football field and still having fun, that's the main thing," he said, adding he has stayed relatively healthy as well.
Hitchcock hopes the new pact will enable him to reach one of his personal milestones, namely to be able to start and conclude his stellar Canadian Football League career with his hometown Tabbies.
"I would hope so. They've given me an opportunity to come back for two more years and that's just what I wanted. If I play two more years then retire as a Cat, that's exactly how I want things to work out," he said, adding it is still possible he may have more than two seasons left.
Hitchcock said he relishes the opportunity to return to what is expected to be a much more competitive Cat squad this season.
"A lot of people have asked me 'Is it going to be a rebuilding year?' and I say absolutely not. We have every intention of going and making the playoffs and winning it game by game and just taking it from there. It's definitely not going to be a rebuilding season," he said.
The Tabbies selected Hitchcock in the second round (17th overall) of the 1995 Canadian College Draft. He played all 18 games that first season including six starts at free safety. The following season the Weber State product played in all 18 games making 14 starts.
In 1997 Hitchcock again established himself as one of he club's strongest Canadians and was recognized for his off-field contributions, earning the nod for the Tom Pate Memorial Award for community service.
In 1998, Hitchcock started all 18 contests at free safety as he did in 1999, 2000 and 2001. In 2002, Hitchcock's ability to "bring the wood" earned him the club's nod for both outstanding defensive player and outstanding Canadian.
In 2003 a broken arm limited him to just eight games.
And in 2004 Hitchcock was moved from his free safety spot to outside linebacker, a position he started at for most of last season.
Ticat GM Rob Katz said Hitchcock brings a lot to the team on and off the field.
"The leadership he brings, he has been here for 11 years, understands the Ticat tradition and understands that we're working toward bringing championships back to Hamilton. We want him to be a part of it, he certainly wants to be a part of it and we think he can contribute," Katz said.