Most football players show up at Media Day with confidence and cliches. Malcolm Mitchell brought a book.
“The Magician’s Hat,” about an illusionist named David, is a children’s book self-published this summer by the University of Georgia senior. The magician’s best trick: using the power of books to influence kids.
It could very well be an autobiography.
Mitchell garnered attention last year when word spread about his newfound passion for reading and the Athens, Georgia, book club he joined that was populated by mostly middle-aged women. Now, Mitchell isn’t just a reader; he’s an author.
Mitchell, who started college with perhaps a junior-high reading level, wasn’t the kind of kid who grew up reading “The Giving Tree” or “James and the Giant Peach.” Instead, he was receiving passes and dreaming of playing in the Peach Bowl. All of that practice paid off when the Valdosta High School grad earned a scholarship to play for the Bulldogs.
Mitchell started nine games each in 2011 and ’12 at split end, but he tore his ACL in the 2013 opener and missed the remainder of what would have been his junior season.
Nevertheless, what was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day turned into a blessing in disguise. “Once I got injured, I needed to do something – something that would take me away from reality,” Mitchell said. “I picked up ‘The Hunger Games.’ I dove myself so deep in that book. The reality became an illusion, and that book became reality. That’s when I knew the magical power of books.”
In search of more wizardry, the communications studies major visited a local bookstore and met a woman with four books in her hands – a perfect source for a recommendation. As he and the woman talked, he ended up with an invitation to join her book club. “They don’t even let their husbands come,” he said.
Mitchell continued to attend the meetings even after he healed and returned to the Georgia lineup last fall. So far, his favorite book is “The Glass Castle,” a memoir by Jeannette Walls that tells of the author’s difficult upbringing. “It was written so well that it was like a painting being painted in front of my eyes,” he said.
He plans to keep up with his book club this season and now also works to generate excitement for reading among kids.
“The difficult crowd is younger athletes who think reading isn’t cool,” he said. “I tell them a little bit about myself and the journey I’ve had into reading. ... It opened my eyes to the many opportunities that the world has to offer.”