By Connie Wardman
They say opposites attract. And that certainly is true for Georgia Bulldog wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell. You may remember the national attention he garnered last year when he joined a local predominantly woman’s book club at the Athens, Georgia Barnes & Nobel. Well, his newly-found love for books is garnering him even more attention this year – he’s just written and self-published a bound and illustrated children’s book, “The Magician’s Hat.”
I’m sure it was quite an unusual sight to see the 6-foot-1 top-100 recruit being part of a group of women ranging in age from their 40s to their 60s. But after his first book club experience, Mitchell was hooked. What makes this so amazing is the fact that the then-21-year-old had always found reading-to be a challenge. He admitted that when he arrived at college he was reading at only a middle school level.
Following an ACL injury in 2013, however, it was Mitchell’s new passion for reading that helped him get through it. His personal identity was tightly tied to football but when injury forced him out of the game for awhile, it was reading that helped him stay positive. “If you pick up and read,” he said, “you never know what will come from it. When it altered my life in such a positive way, that’s when I realized the effect it could have.”
Mitchell never intended to write a children’s book. In fact, prior to joining the book club, he had never even read a children’s book. But he has a message for children about the ability of books to change your life. David, the magician in his book reveals to children the magical power of books, showing kids how they can achieve through reading.
Showing up at SEC Media Days this past week with a copy of the book which will be out in August, Mitchell read an excerpt from it during his press conference. “Today is the first time I’ve talked about it,” he said. Calling writing “almost personal,” Mitchell said that “This is a piece of me. It’s my vision, it’s my heart it’s my words.”
Mitchell is constrained, however, by the strict NCAA rules that govern promoting outside interests that could potentially turn into revenue. He’s already spent approximately $500 of his own money to publish the book but he can’t put a picture of himself in a Georgia football uniform on his website nor can the college promote his book. They can only support his efforts promoting literacy.
He gives high marks to his coach Mark Richt, the school’s compliance office and the NCAA for their help and encouragement, enabling him to tackle this project while keeping him on the “straight and narrow,” making sure he doesn’t violate any of the rules.
His website focus (www.ReadWithMalcolm.com) is on lifetime learning, bearing the quote, “The only boundaries are those we create for ourselves.” If you go to his website and click the About tab to Meet Malcolm, it’s worth reading his response to those age-old questions of who would I be, what would I do, what message would I leave the world if there were no boundaries.
If Mitchell had any boundaries prior to joining the book club, it appears that in the oft-quoted truism, he has changed his mind and changed his life. And he’s now out to help children do the same through reading. But football fans can breathe easy since Mitchell says his “No. 1 passion is still fulfilling my dreams as a professional athlete. I don’t want that to be overshadowed. They go hand in hand.”
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