I am a die-hard New England Patriots fan. The final minutes of Super Bowl LI was for the history books, though not good for my racing heart. Did I mention that I love the Patriots, the good, the bad and the ugly? Did you notice during the game, one young wide receiver (WR), rookie Malcolm Mitchell, had six receptions for 70 yards breaking a record set by WR Terry Glenn in 1996? More remarkable than his play during the game, is his story.
A graduate of the University of Georgia, Malcolm entered college reading at a junior high level. Not content with his literacy level, during a period of rehabilitation from a torn ACL, Malcolm worked with tutors intensively to improve his reading skills. Wanting to move beyond his comfort zone, he became an avid reader. One day he approached a woman in a Barnes & Noble in Athens, Georgia requesting a book recommendation. Malcolm not only received a recommendation, he also became a member of Kathy Rackley’s book club. He is the youngest, the only male and the only African- American member of this club and he is proud of it. During an interview with CBS News, Malcolm proclaimed his pride in becoming a nerd. Never one to be too far from a book now, he has authored a book, The Magician’s Hat, which encourages young people to follow their dreams. Best of all, the setting of The Magician’s Hat is a library, one of my happy places (the other is any bookstore). Continuing his advocacy for literacy, Malcolm created the Share the Magic Foundation, a nonprofit with a mission to “promote the long-term benefits of reading and book ownership among students in Title I schools and underserved communities.”
Malcolm Mitchell is in good company. Let me tell you about another New England Patriot’s work with literacy. Currently playing for the Patriots as a tight end, Martellus Bennett asks in his Tedx Talk, More Than An Athlete, and “What will you do when the game is over?”(Ah, now you know how this article got its title). Using his creativity, intelligence and imagination, he founded The Imagination Agency, creating a world of characters for children to experience while increasing their literacy skills. , The Imagination Agency’s first book, with its mobile interactive app, allows children to explore A.J.’s adventures making breakfast on her own. I bought the app and played the game! Somehow, I missed some of the bunnies along the way – must try again.
Most importantly, Malcolm Mitchell and Martellus Bennett envisioned a life beyond professional sports and took steps during their careers to make that transition. Let their leadership guide all future student-athletes to consider life off the playing field.