‘I was fearless on the football field. I didn’t want to be afraid of the classroom.’

I received a few emails about a terrific piece in Friday’s edition of The Wall Street Journal about Malcolm Mitchell.

As a star player on a top high-school team, Mr. Mitchell had his pick of college scholarships. But when he arrived at the University of Georgia, he realized that he was behind his peers academically. “They were so articulate and accomplished,” he recalls. “I said to myself, ‘I want that.’” After hearing Curtis Jackson, the rapper known as 50 Cent, talk about Robert Greene’s self-help book “The 48 Laws of Power,” Mr. Mitchell tried reading a copy. “It was heartbreaking,” he recalls. “I had to look up every other word.”

Demoralized but not discouraged, he saw that he needed to “start from scratch.” At 20 he was reading “The Giving Tree” and “Exclamation Mark,” paying close attention to punctuation and writing down new words. He then moved on to graphic novels, young-adult novels like the “Harry Potter” series and adult fiction before exploring essays and biographies. He discovered that he loved learning about people he would never otherwise meet and examining thorny ideas from unexpected points of view. “The more you read, the more you open yourself up to different perspectives,” he observes.

While recovering from knee surgeries in 2013-14, Mr. Mitchell was scanning the shelves at an Athens, Ga., Barnes & Noble when he noticed an older woman holding several books. He struck up a conversation, hoping to get a book recommendation, and was excited to learn that she belonged to a book club. He earnestly asked if he could join and ended up spending two years discussing novels with a group of women older than his mother.

His NFL career ended early due to injury, he’s found his current calling.

Today Mr. Mitchell, 28, is a writer himself. His second children’s book, “My Very Favorite Book in the Whole Wide World,” will be published next month in a bilingual edition with English and Spanish side by side. Retired from the NFL because of injuries, he devotes himself to traveling the country to promote literacy, particularly among students from disadvantaged backgrounds like his own. “Children listen to me because I look like many of them,” he says. His Share the Magic Foundation, now in its fifth year, has reached hundreds of thousands of students through in-person school events and free virtual programming, including a READcamp to keep kids reading over the summer. The organization has distributed nearly 60,000 free books to kids in underserved communities.

And what story about a college athlete who lived up to the ideals the NCAA promotes wouldn’t be complete without an NIL reference?

Eager to promote “the magic of reading” to youngsters, Mr. Mitchell was a college senior when he decided to write his own children’s book. At the time, strict NCAA rules barred college athletes from making business deals, so he had to publish “The Magician’s Hat” himself and sell it exclusively through the University of Georgia bookstore. The book became a local bestseller and earned him the Children’s Author of the Year award from the Georgia Writers Association.

30 Comments

Filed under Academics? Academics., Georgia Football

30 responses to “‘I was fearless on the football field. I didn’t want to be afraid of the classroom.’

  1. Salty Dawg

    Another fine example of a DGD!

    Liked by 6 people

  2. NotMyCrossToBear

    I’m not sure if there has been a better one.

    Liked by 6 people

  3. PTC DAWG

    Great story…

    Like

    • Down Island Way

      Good story now….it was a truly great story when it all unfolded with his will to over come those short comings to persevere and find himself with the weekly book club…that was fun reading…

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Ran A

    Will make a point of supporting his endeavors. Thank you for sharing this Senator.

    Like

  5. Derek

    How many kids go through 3-5 years of college with the aptitude Malcolm showed up with and make little or no effort to improve?

    But I guess we shouldn’t worry about that so long as we’re entertained, right?

    Like

  6. While repping chicken may seem silly to some ( or even the gateway to Hell) I hope MM’s story sets an example for other athletes who are “doing it right” and can also combine that with a personal economic opportunity beyond the sporting field…just like other student’s already could.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. armydawg

    When will guys like this become the rule instead of the exception?

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Whiskey Dawg

    We rise by lifting others. MM you’re rising high.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Hobnail_Boot

    Amazing guy. That takes an incredible amount of humility and determination.

    To an NIL hammer, everything in the world looks like a nail.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Russ

    DGD! This man took full advantage of his opportunities at college and is making the best of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. cigarstock

    Address for the foundation? A contribution is in order. DGD MM !!!!

    Liked by 3 people

  12. gurkhadawg

    Way to go MM. But this story is an indictment of the educational system. UGA included. Malcolm had to figure it out for himself with help from 50 cent and a bunch of old ladies. Good thing Malcolm didn’t listen to the Governor of Oregon who thinks people of color can’t learn reading, writing and math.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Dylan Dreyer's Booty

      Yes, exactly. MM was fortunate to have physical gifts that got him into a position to see what was possible. Then, he got an ACL injury that was not seen as a blessing at the time, but did give him the time to accelerate his pursuit of literacy. The fact that he graduated high school and had to do that is an indictment of much of the educational system, but it is also an indictment of us as a society, because we don’t care nearly enough about education, especially for those who would benefit the most.

      It’s a great story, though. We can do remarkable things even when we don’t come with the training to do be expected to do it: if you are posting today using wi-fi (or bluetooth) thank the actress Hedy Lamarr for the inspiration. https://prologue.blogs.archives.gov/2020/05/26/the-world-war-ii-era-actress-that-invented-wi-fi-hedy-lamarr/

      Liked by 4 people

    • ASEF

      So the Governor of Oregon is the only one, hmmm? 🙂

      I remember a couple of English teachers in my high school. Nice ladies, very good at their jobs, both had husbands working as high-ranking officers at the local military base, so they mainly worked to stay busy, way overqualified for the job. Both went to our church. I was lucky to have them.

      I about fell out of my chair when I was serving as a teacher aid for one of them and heard them grousing about the “lazy (you know)” at the back of their classes. I was in AP, no minorities in there, and I started paying attention to the way they treated black students in their class.

      After I’d graduated, I asked one of them about the conversation after church, and she went on kind of rant. I asked her if she really thought those students didn’t pick up on her body language, the hostility and contempt, and how she’d respond in a classroom where the teacher acted that way.

      She never talked to me in church again.

      So, yeah, our education system fails a lot of students. But most of that happens where the rubber meets the road. Not in a governor’s office.

      Liked by 8 people

  13. ASEF

    Just awesome.

    Like

  14. debbybalcer

    I followed his story from the beginning. I did not realize though how limited his reading skills were. He is such an intelligent young man. He determination to be the best he can be is a testimony of character.

    Like

  15. gurkhadawg

    I wish I could by stock in Malcolm Mitchell. If I could I would back up the truck. That young man will be able to achieve whatever he wants in life.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. classiccitycanine

    I assume Derek will be here to lecture us all on the evils of NIL in 3, 2, 1…

    Like