“In order to succeed, you have to read.”
These are strong words coming from an extremely gifted football player whose most recent accomplishment is earning a Super Bowl championship with the 2017 New England Patriots, yet Malcolm Mitchell believes these words to his very core.
The remarkable story of Malcolm Mitchell’s triumphs and inspiration has been well documented, yet he continues to achieve and inspire at every phase of his career.
The Valdosta, Georgia, native came from humble beginnings as he and his brothers were raised by their single mother, but he was also brought up under the tutelage and influence of Valdosta High School’s football tradition. Motivated by the work ethic of his mother and refined by the “never, never, never quit” mantra of the Wildcat tradition, Mitchell developed a champion’s mentality early on in his life.
“You can truly accomplish whatever you put your mind to,” Mitchell said. “You go after it with everything within you. You know, that’s a message that my mom has sent me since I was a little child, and it’s a message that I will send, because whatever you want to achieve, it’s out there. You will have to go through some obstacles – everything won’t go your way – but if you don’t quit, you keep going, you have a better chance of reaching your goal.”
It didn’t take long for his talents as a wide receiver and defensive back at Valdosta High School and as an Under Armour All-American to project to the next level, yet it wasn’t until his years at the University of Georgia that he was truly awakened to the reality of his academic shortcomings.
“When I first got to college, I was able to still accomplish things on the field, but as a person I felt like I was failing myself,” Mitchell said. “My mission is to be the best person I can be, and that doesn’t just amount to football; that’s every aspect of life. And everything off the field wasn’t the way that I wanted it to be, especially reading.”
Unwilling to accept this limitation on his potential, Mitchell went to work, on and off the field. After battling back from an ACL injury following his All-SEC Freshman campaign, he ended his career as a Bulldog as their leading receiver in his final season. More importantly, however, was a newfound emphasis on reading, which lead to the founding of the Read With Malcolm Literacy Initiative and the Share the Magic Foundation.
Recognizing the impact that this literary revolution was making on his life, Mitchell wanted to take that magic to elementary schools and homes across the nation to address the negative effect of low reading achievement in underserved schools and communities. In a few short years, he transformed from a college student who was reading at a junior high level to becoming a national inspiration and award-winning author for his children’s book, “The Magician’s Hat.”
The goals of Mitchell’s foundation are to introduce book ownership to students in households where reading is not a priority and to improve literacy in schools with below grade-level reading skills. They accomplish this through partnerships with individuals, school systems, and entire communities, headlined by Mitchell’s visits to schools across the nation for his Reading Rallies.
“Everywhere I go, I continue to push the message that reading can truly change your life and reshape it in a way that you achieve the goals that you set out for yourself,” Mitchell said.
In its first year, Malcolm’s book, “The Magician’s Hat,” which challenges young readers to think about what they want to be when they grow up, was distributed to more than 13,500 students in over 57 elementary schools, children’s hospitals, and community service organizations. Malcolm has personally visited over 19 elementary schools.
In everything that they do, Mitchell and the leadership behind his foundation and initiatives aspire to transform the lives of young students through literacy with the belief that “there’s a little bit of magic in every book,” as Mitchell likes to say.
Since the founding of Read With Malcolm in 2015, Mitchell has been recognized as the 2016 Georgia Writer’s Association Children’s Author of the Year, American’s Promise Alliance Hero Award Winner, the National Captain of the AllState Goodworks Team, National Haier Ultimate Achievement Award, Atlanta Sports Council Community Service Award Winner, The Jack Turner Award Winner presented by the Georgia Chapter of the National College Hall Of Fame, and the UGA Student Athlete of the Year.
Yet even with this incredible list of off-the-field achievements already under his belt, Mitchell still had his greatest athletic achievement ahead of him. After being drafted to the New England Patriots in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Mitchell worked his way into the lineup of the league’s most dominant franchise.
The result? Malcolm Mitchell was name to the NFL All-Rookie Team, playing in 14 games and amassing 32 receptions, 401 yards, and four TDs, and most importantly, a Super Bowl ring.
In this historic comeback and overtime victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the 2017 Super Bowl, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady found Mitchell as a reliable target and key piece of their second-half surge. Mitchell finished the game with six receptions and 70 yards, trailing only behind Brady’s veteran targets of Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman.
As the Patriots punched in the touchdown that capped off the league’s largest Super Bowl comeback, the celebration began. Confetti flew, tears of joy streamed, and the Lombardi Trophy made its way into the welcome embrace of rookie Malcolm Mitchell, who was showcasing an unmistakable smile that told the whole story without a single word.
That celebration, however, exceeded the bounds of just that day. After the culmination of these achievements, Mitchell made the trip back south to say thanks to his biggest fans: his hometown crowd of family, friends, and fans. On “Malcolm Mitchell Day,” local supporters rushed to Valdosta High’s historic Bazemore-Hyder Stadium as Mitchell expressed his gratitude and received a “Key to City of Valdosta, GA” for his work on and off the professional football field.
“I’ve had a tremendous amount of support from my hometown of Valdosta, to Atlanta, to Massachusetts,” Mitchell said. “Pushing that message that reading is important and it will help you grow and help you become the person you want to be is something that I will forever do, and I approach that with the same mentality that I approach football.”
His message on that day, and every day, was one of humility, gratefulness, and of course, inspiration. Current or former student-athletes, young or old, Malcolm Mitchell serves as a role model to all in his approach and actions.
“Never give up,” Mitchell said without hesitation. “You will be faced with obstacles at some point. Even when you are successful, always keep striving for more.”
Despite his youth, despite his disadvantages, and despite his setbacks, Malcolm Mitchell has worked for and achieved success.
“No matter what happens in life, I will forever be a World Champion,” he said following the Super Bowl victory.
But if anything is clear from the still-young life of Malcolm Mitchell, he knows that there is much to life beyond football. From his play on the field to his work as an author and as the founder of Read With Malcolm, he continues to use his past to inspire future generations.
“My goal is to make sure that every kid, especially every first grader, has ‘The Magician’s Hat’ in their hands on their first day of school,” Mitchell said. “But just sharing that passion for reading, continuing to write to inspire… I don’t really see a cap to it, because you can never push that message enough. So, until I can no longer talk, I will be pushing that message that reading can take you anywhere.”
In the Game Magazine / South Georgia / June-July 2017
Malcolm Mitchell / Valdosta High School
Achieve and Inspire: The Magic of Malcolm Mitchell Continues
Written by Cole Parker
Photo courtesy of Read With Malcolm