May 25, 2016

NFL draft pick joined a local book club, delighted everyone


Malcolm Mitchell signing a copy of his book at the UGA Bookstore. Image via Instagram

Malcolm Mitchell signing a copy of his book at the UGA Bookstore. Image via Instagram

Malcolm Mitchell may be headed to the NFL, but before he was the Patriots’ fourth-round draft pick, he was a well-known wide receiver at the University of Georgia, and the unlikeliest member of a local book club. Here’s your meet-cute, from the Boston Globe:

All it took was a chance meeting in a Barnes & Noble two years ago on Mother’s Day.

Malcolm Mitchell, the Patriots’ fourth-round pick in last month’s NFL Draft, was then a Georgia wide receiver well known in these football-crazed parts. But not to Kathy Rackley.

“I was there picking up ‘Me Before You,’ the next book for the club,” Rackley said. “Malcolm walked up to me and said: ‘Can I ask you something? Can you recommend a book?’”

Rackley, happy to oblige the stranger, asked what he liked to read.

“Anything,” he replied.

Rackley explained that she was picking the latest assignment for her new book club.

“You’re in a book club?” she recalled Mitchell saying. “I want to be in a book club. Can I be in your book club?”

And so Mitchell became a member of the Silverleaf Book Club, made up entirely, until his arrival, of women in their 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. The next meeting was just two days later, and despite not having time to finish the book (Me Before You by Jojo Moyes), Mitchell showed up. Host Pattie Bronson told Globe reporter Jim McBride that he shared his opinions, as well as his own experiences. “He told us his story, and we all just fell in love,” Bronson said. “He really opened his heart and soul to us.” Henry McKenna at quotes Mitchell speaking with reporters:

“The book club is awesome,” he told reporters. “The book club helped me grow into a better individual, a person who learns and grows throughout life in general. I joined the book club probably two or three years ago and from there it just grew into this story that people like to hear, but it was honestly an innocent interaction that I had with someone in the book club that grew into the story that it is today.”

Mitchell reportedly was reading at a junior high level when he enrolled at Georgia. “[Football] came natural,” Mitchell told CBS News. “That’s a gift. I had to work to read.’’ Mitchell compares his book club experience with that of being a football player (“It’s all team . . . I feel that in both places’’), and the experience has turned him into an avid reader…and author.

Mitchell’s love for reading led to his writing his own book, “The Magician’s Hat,” a children’s story he takes great pride in reading at local schools during what Rackley refers to as “book rallies — they’re like pep rallies.”

He’s currently writing his second book, and hopes that his love for reading, together with his football fame, inspires children to pick up the habit. Kathy Rackley told the Globe that Mitchell “wants those kids to think that, ‘Hey, if an NFL player thinks it’s cool to read, it must be.’” Mitchell agrees. “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.”

Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.