HOOVER, Ala. -- In his wildest dreams, Malcolm Mitchell never thought a torn anterior cruciate ligament would be the catalyst to publish his first book.
As fate would have it, that’s exactly what transpired.
Mitchell was poised for a big year in 2013 before he jumped and landed awkwardly on his right leg while celebrating a Todd Gurley touchdown run in the season-opener against Clemson. Since, Mitchell endured a long rehabilitation process, which included a second, but minor, knee surgery last August, which limited him a year ago.
During his recovery, Mitchell became even more of a voracious bookworm after starting college reading at a junior high level. Mitchell joined a local book club comprised of women 40 years and older and became a literacy advocate for children in the Athens community.
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That love of reading blossomed into a desire to write. Mitchell revealed that after a year and a half of work, he’s nearly finished with his first book — “The Magician’s Hat.”
“I definitely believe that this story wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t get injured,” Mitchell said. “It gave me time to read a lot more while rehabbing. I do appreciate the injury more so now than I did initially.”
The self-published work is a children’s book, which Mitchell chose due to his time spent promoting reading in local schools. Mitchell’s book is about a magician named David, whose best trick is “showing the magical powers of books and how reading can influence you to do things you never thought,” he said. During the writing process, Mitchell didn’t take a self-reflective approach, even though the summary he gave mirrors his passion for reading.
“In my life I always wanted to be something more than just your average football player,” said Mitchell, who brought a reader’s copy of “The Magician’s Hat” to SEC Media Days on Thursday. “I started watching documentaries on people I saw as successful, such as Warren Buffett, Steve Jobs and all those guys. At the core of all their success, it always had something to do with reading. Once I figured that out I realized I needed be a better reader. That’s what pushed me toward it. What kept me in it were all the great stories I’ve read through time.”
Mitchell teamed up with illustrator Dennis Campay for the book, which will be released in August. Teammates Jordan Jenkins and John Theus, as well as Georgia head coach Mark Richt, read the book for the first time during the short flight from Athens to Hoover for SEC Media Days on Thursday.
“I liked it, it’s pretty good,” Richt said. “I like the fact he has embraced reading for himself personally. We all know he has a platform and we’re all talking about it now. I guarantee there will be a lot of young people that will be interested and see what this guy is about. He could change the life of a young person and that’s what it’s all about.”
Said Theus: “It was impressive. It doesn’t surprise me Malcolm did that. He’s an outgoing guy. You can tell there’s always something ticking in his mind. He’s a different kid. If anyone can do it he can.”
Jenkins didn’t know Mitchell was working on a book until the receiver asked him to hold it for a moment during the car ride to the airport. Jenkins glanced at the book, with a white background and blue magician’s hat, and noticed Mitchell’s name inscribed as the author. Immediately, Jenkins was astonished his teammate was able to complete such a task while juggling football and academics.
“That’s just a huge accomplishment for him and I’m proud of him,” Jenkins said. “I’ve loved reading my entire life. I love reading books. I have a collection at my house. To see Malcolm do that is an incredible feat.”
Mitchell, who recorded 31 catches for 248 yards and three touchdowns in 2014, will hope to put on a magician’s hat of his own in his final season as a Bulldog. Mitchell recently recorded and uploaded videos online of himself reeling in one-handed catches, but said he took them down to prevent any possible distractions for the upcoming season.
Jenkins said Mitchell’s made some “Odell Beckham-style” catches during player-led seven-on-seven drills, with the Valdosta native as healthy as he’s been before the ACL tear. Theus believes Mitchell will return to his playmaking ability while bringing up the 45-yard touchdown reception Mitchell made against Florida in 2012 that ultimately gave Georgia a 17-9 victory.
“He’s a very explosive player,” Richt said. “He’s got the ability to snatch a ball. He’s got speed, agility. He’s got a lot of experience. If we can do a good job in the running game and create some one-on-one situations, I’m expecting for him and the rest of the guys to make plays.”
Mitchell has proven he’s more than just a football player, even if it took a devastating injury for it to be known. Though Mitchell will have the opportunity to pursue football when his college career wraps up, he’s hopeful he’ll continue to write more books in the future.
“This is a piece of me,” Mitchell said. “It’s my heart, my words."