Georgia WR Malcolm Mitchell proves reading is fundamental, impactful

Malcolm Mitchell was a popular figure at SEC Media Days on Thursday. (USATSI)
Malcolm Mitchell was a popular figure at SEC Media Days on Thursday. (USATSI)

HOOVER, Ala. -- It’s not that Malcolm Mitchell couldn’t read when he got to Georgia. It’s that he had no interest -- he wouldn’t read.

Reminded that not reading would tend to make college difficult, the Bulldogs’ senior receiver replied: “It’s not that hard [to get through].”

While we attend to closing the dropped jaws of Georgia, SEC and NCAA officials over that comment, this story does have a literate ending.

Mitchell was a one-man infomercial Thursday at the 2015 SEC Media Days, hawking his children’s book, “The Magician’s Hat.” It was conceived and written while Mitchell spent one-and-a-half seasons rehabbing a torn ACL.

“It definitely gave me time to read a lot more,” he said.

Mitchell could read when he got to Athens, just not at an elite level. Then something clicked. While recovering from the injury, he started reading up to four books a week, which led him to joining a women’s book club, which led to him being featured on the CBS Evening News.

Next thing you know Mitchell self-published his first book.

“Most magicians pull rabbits out of a hat or quarters from behind a kid’s ear,” Mitchell said. “This magician’s best trick is showing the magical powers of books.”

It took between $500 and $1,000 to get the book -- aimed at kindergarten children to fourth graders -- to market. It has a foreword by Georgia coach Mark Richt reflecting how Mitchell was literally inspired by … words.

As mentioned, he never was into them. A few minutes into the 2013 season opener against Clemson, he blew out his knee. That led to a strange, wonderful affair.

“I kind of do appreciate the injury now more than I did initially,” Mitchell said. “I never thought I’d say that, that’s for sure."

Since 2012, Mitchell has caught only about 250 yards worth of passes. His personal transformation has gone far beyond books.

“The more I read, the clearer I see my dreams, the more vivid images are painted in my head,” he said. “I can have a nightmare and while I’m dreaming I can control everything. It doesn’t scare me anymore.

“You know the movie ‘The Ring’? She popped up. I look over and she just pops in my face.”

Then she was gone.

“With writing, it’s almost personal,” Mitchell said. “This is a piece of me, technically. It’s my vision, it’s my heart, it’s my words. Opening up and sharing that with everybody isn’t the easiest thing to do.

“But if you want to get a message out, you have to open your arms and let people step in. If someone read it and said, ‘That’s horrible,’ that would be heartbreaking because it’s a piece of me.”

Georgia has become a sort of artists’ colony. Former receiver Chris Conley became as famous for his Star Wars-themed movie as he was for football. Conley is now with the Kansas City Chiefs.

“My No. 1 path is fulfilling my dream to be a professional athlete,” Mitchell said. “I don’t want that message to be overshadowed by other things I care about. They go hand in hand.

“My main focus was not trying to send a message. At the time I couldn’t do the things that I was known for. Reading was the thing that picked me up."

Denied from promoting the book on Georgia’s website -- thanks again, NCAA -- Mitchell launched his own website, readwithmalcolm.com.

Essentially, those arcane NCAA’s rules meant Mitchell couldn’t promote literacy on his university’s website, so he started his own.

“The more children’s books I read the more I got influenced by them,” Mitchell said. “I don’t think anyone could have guessed.”

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Dennis Dodd has covered college football for CBS Sports since it was CBS SportsLine in 1998. He is one of only seven media members to attend all 16 BCS title games and has chronicled conference realignment... Full Bio

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