FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Jacob Joly turned 12 on Friday, and he had one request for his birthday night: He wanted to spend it around Gillette Stadium, home of his beloved New England Patriots. Little did he know he was in for an unexpected and unforgettable gift he will cherish forever.
It was all thanks to second-year wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell.
Joly, of North Kingstown, Rhode Island, arrived in Foxborough on a rainy night with his grandmother, mother, aunt and siblings. Their plan was to hang around Patriot Place, the retail area around the stadium, and eventually eat dinner at one of the restaurants partially overlooking the playing field.
Touring the Patriots Hall of Fame, they learned that Mitchell would be holding his final reading rally of the offseason there at 4:15 p.m. ET. So they attended and purchased Mitchell’s children’s book, “The Magician’s Hat,” at the Patriots ProShop. Then they took the opportunity with others in attendance to have Mitchell sign it.
That’s when the magic happened.
“We got into a conversation and were talking about my birthday and stuff,” Joly relayed. “That’s when he said, ‘It’s your birthday, I want to buy you something.’ And I was like, ‘No, it’s fine.’ Then he asked me what jerseys I have. I told him I have an Edelman, a Gronk, but I really wanted a Malcolm Mitchell jersey. So he gave a dude his credit card and he got me a Malcolm Mitchell jersey. I was kind of mind blown.”
One twist, however, is that the Patriots ProShop isn’t currently selling Mitchell jerseys. But staffers have the capability of making them, and they quickly sprang to action behind the scenes to do so.
Soon enough, Mitchell signed his name on the back of it, adding “SB LI Champs!!!” underneath his signature.
Joly’s mother, Heidi Henry, fought back tears as it unfolded, saying later, “It was the nicest thing that has ever happened to us.”
Mitchell’s kind gesture wasn’t the only thing that made an indelible impression on Joly and his family. The message about the importance of reading, which was delivered in concert with the Patriots Hall of Fame’s summer reading program, was powerful too.
“At night, I never really read. I usually play Xbox,” Joly said. “I’m going to switch that a little bit.”