FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots rookie wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell is making two notable transitions this year -- from college football to the NFL, and from living his entire life in Georgia to becoming familiar with the Northeast.
As it relates to the latter, a few things stand out.
“Dunkin’ Donuts, CVS,” he said of things that seem to pop up around every street corner. “And just blue-collar workmanship, it is way more evident visually than other areas I’ve visited.”
Mitchell, 23, has tried to adopt a similar approach with his football career. He opened the year as the Patriots’ No. 3 receiver, which is a quick rise compared to most other wide receiver draft picks in Bill Belichick’s 17-year tenure as coach.
In all, Mitchell has played 174 offensive snaps (32 percent), totaling six catches for 82 yards. He also made some headlines before the team’s Oct. 2 loss to the Buffalo Bills, as he was part of a scrum with short-fused Bills defenders who pushed rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
Mitchell shares his “football journey” as part of ESPN.com’s weekly feature:
How he first started playing football: “Fourth grade. I watched my older brother play. It looked like he was having fun, so I wanted to join in.”
Favorite teams and players as a youth: “Growing up, I didn’t even watch sports. I was outside playing all the time, no exaggeration. You know the big names, but as far as evaluating the game, it was popping popcorn, eating chicken wings for the Super Bowls. It wasn’t until about high school that I really got into it.”
Role models: “My mother [Patrina Woods], hands down. Just watching her overcome adversity throughout her life, never complain about the things she had to go through. It wasn’t until I was older that I understood what she was going through, as far as us not being financially stable or other situations that were going on.”
Favorite football memories at Valdosta High School: “Playing with all the guys you grew up with around town. I had spent my whole life with them up to that point. It was similar to the movie Friday Night Lights.”
Enrolling at the University of Georgia: “I just took an approach where I wasn’t going based on the players that were there. It was where I felt I could develop into the best player and person. I visited plenty of schools -- Alabama, Florida, mainly the SEC. So I knew I wanted to play there.”
Promoting his book club story and the importance of reading: “My main focus right now is all Patriots, to be completely honest. I’ll read when time permits, but this being my rookie year, this being a new environment, my main priority is all Patriots right now. Any time I have a chance to talk about it, I definitely will. But as far as me being embedded in it like I was in college, it’s not really the optimal time for that. If that story helps one child, it’s all worth it.”
Top memories at Georgia: “Now, looking back, probably cultivating those relationships with the players, and people around the university -- getting to know people and being genuine with people, and watching those relationships form.”
Entering the NFL draft and being selected by the Patriots in the fourth round: “At that point, I’m just looking for an opportunity to go somewhere similar to college and become the best player I could be. I had played with David Andrews at Georgia, and he was already here. He called me after the draft and told me how great of an opportunity I had.”
Describing life as a Patriot: “It’s a great experience, an opportunity to be out there and work every day and become the best player you can possibly be, with coaches who want you to be the best you can possibly be.”
What he loves about football: “I just love the process of working -- you come in and work, and do it with people who are all trying to achieve the same outcome. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience -- to study, to analyze, to apply, and then to see the results, all within a week. And then do it again and again to see who can do it better, for longer.”
Summing up his football journey: “It’s been progressive. There’s still a lot I need to learn, just studying the game and watching other people play. It’s a work in progress.”