The Patriots achieved all kinds of firsts this February. They made the largest comeback ever in a Super Bowl. They won the first overtime Super Bowl game ever. They also had the first pre-game press conference where a player discussed Gone Girl , Gillian Flynn’s best-selling thriller.
Wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell was the player discussing the book. That would have made the conversation even more unlikely if you had known him before his college days. The younger Mitchell had trouble reading. When he entered college, he read at a junior high school level.
Mitchell decided that he wanted to exercise his brain as much as he did his body. Using the same work ethic that propelled him to a successful college career and then the pros, Mitchell set about to learning how to read better. He used all of his free time on the endeavor.
Mitchell ended up becoming a proficient and prolific reader. He finished The Hunger Games series in two days. That’s what he cited as the achievement he was most proud of in an interview during his college days.
The young football star explained that football “ came natural. That’s a gift. I had to work to read.”
He also shared a funny story about being made fun of and relishing it. Mitchell said, “Somebody called me a nerd. That’s not a word that I’m used to hearing. I was proud of it… It’s like a badge of honor to me, knowing where I came from.”
Perhaps the most unusual twist to Mitchell’s reading career came in a Barnes & Noble book shop. He was perusing the aisles when he encountered Kathy Rackley. She was an older woman and she was extremely excited about the book club she had just joined.
While she was picking up the next month’s selection, Me Before You , Mitchell asked her if she had a book recommendation. Rackley was so excited about the book club that she started telling Mitchell all about it. She talked his ear off, all the while having no idea that he was a college superstar in her hometown of Athens, Georgia. Her excitement must have been contagious because Mitchell asked her if he could join the book club, too.
Rackley was taken aback. The club was all women who were over 40. She told Mitchell that he may not want to join this particular club because he might feel out of place. Mitchell thought that he would fit right in with these people who were as excited as he was about reading.
After the first meeting he attended, he fell in love with the book club, and the book club members fell in love with him. One of the club’s hosts, Pattie Bronson said, “He told us his story, and we all just fell in love. He really opened his heart and soul to us.”
For his part, Mitchell said, “ The book club helped me grow into a better individual, a person who learns and grows throughout life in general.” He met with the group through the rest of his college days.
Mitchell became such a fan of reading that he wanted to write his own book. The man who once struggled to read wanted to teach others about the magic of books. He wrote a children’s book called The Magician’s Hat that was published in 2015.
That brings us back to the Super Bowl press conference. He is almost certainly the first player asked about the false diary in Gone Girl . Mitchell explained, “Well, the diary is almost a different character in the book.”
Another rare achievement of Mitchell’s is turning a book club full of red-blooded Georgians into Patriots fans. Forget that the Pats were playing Georgia’s own Falcons, these ladies were rooting for their former-member’s team.
Mitchell had a solid Super Bowl. He caught six of seven passes thrown to him for 70 yards. He was part of a historical comeback in an epic overtime win. Maybe he’ll write a book about it someday.