HOOVER, Ala. -- Georgia receiver Malcolm Mitchell admits he wasn’t much of a reader when he arrived at the university in 2011.
But after discovering a love for books, Mitchell joined a women’s book club and became an advocate for children’s literacy.
Now, as Mitchell prepares for his final football season at UGA, he has authored a children’s book of his own, which will be released later this month. The book, “The Magician’s Hat,” is about a magician named David whose power is through books.
“I think the story itself is really that if you pick up a book and read, you never know what’s going to happen,” Mitchell said. “Being a published author never crossed my mind.”
Mitchell, a senior from Valdosta, Georgia, is living proof. Mitchell said he was reading at about a junior-high level when he joined Georgia’s football team. Mitchell knew he couldn’t survive college courses if he didn’t become a better reader, so he started putting his nose in a book whenever he could.
Then Mitchell had a chance encounter with a woman named Kathy Rackley in the Barnes & Noble in Athens, Georgia. During a conversation about books, Rackley told him that she belonged to a monthly book club. Mitchell told her he’d love to attend. The only problem: The club was made up of women aged 40 or older.
Mitchell, who turns 23 on Monday, started attending the meetings anyway.
“In my life, I always wanted to be something more than just your average football player,” Mitchell said. “I’ve watched documentaries about Warren Buffett and Steve Jobs. The core of their success always had something to do with reading. That’s when I realized I needed to become a better reader.”
Mitchell started writing his own book more than a year ago. Dennis Campay, a Florida-based artist, provided illustrations for the book. The book will initially be self-published and can be purchased at readwithmalcolm.com. Mitchell is hoping the book does well enough to be sold to a children’s book publisher.
“I’m proud of the guy,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “As a father, you want your children to grow. You want them to chase their dreams and you want them to be well-rounded individuals, especially in sports. Sometimes if you’re identified with your sport, what do you do when that sport ends?”
Richt, who has a one-year-old granddaughter, said he read Mitchell’s book and enjoyed it.
“I liked it,” Richt said. “It’s very good. I like the fact that he has embraced reading for himself personally, and is now becoming an advocate for it. He obviously has a platform for it. He might very well change the life of a young person, and that’s awesome.”
On the field, Mitchell is hoping he’ll finally stay healthy this coming season. After emerging as one of the Bulldogs’ best players as a freshman and sophomore, he has been plagued by injuries in each of the previous two seasons. Mitchell tore the ACL in his right knee while celebrating a touchdown in the 2013 opener against Clemson, and was then plagued by lingering knee issues in 2014.
Mitchell had 31 receptions for 248 yards with three touchdowns in eight games last season.
“We know he’s a very talented player and explosive player,” Richt said. “We know he has the ability to snatch the ball and he has experience.”