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Big day for Callaway Elementary students

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

The question was asked, and answered, throughout Malcolm Mitchell’s time with the students at Callaway Elementary School on Thursday morning.

Mitchell, the former University of Georgia star, is on the road promoting his children’s book, and he was at Callaway Elementary to and encourage the hundreds of students at the school.

Mitchell, looking comfortable and at ease while addressing the students, asked them one question repeatedly.

“In order to succeed, you have to what,” Mitchell would ask the students.

“To read,” the students would scream in response.

Mitchell is best-known as the play-making wide receiver who excelled at Georgia before winning a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots.

While Mitchell loves football and everything it has brought him, he also has a passion for books. Mitchell believes reading helped transform him from a young man who struggled in school and would come home with his head down to someone who thrived in an academic setting.

During his time at Georgia, Mitchell wrote a children’s book called “The Magician’s Hat,” and that book has recently received a second printing.

Mitchell remembers how much books meant to him as a youngster and the impact they made on his life, and he felt compelled to write a book of his own.

So while he was still catching passes at Georgia, Mitchell wrote the book, which explores the magic of reading.

Everyone in attendance Thursday received a copy of the book, and at the end of his presentation, Mitchell read it aloud to the students.

“When I leave here, I want you understand that the most important thing you can do, to be the person you want to be, to grow up and become whatever you want to be, you’ve got to read,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell grew up in the southern part of the state and played for the legendary Valdosta Wildcats before heading to Athens where he was a successful wide receiver for the Bulldogs.

As if Mitchell didn’t have enough to do as a football player and student at Georgia, he found time to author a book, and he arrived at SEC media days in 2015 with a copy of “The Magician’s Hat” in hand.

During his remarks to reporters that year, Mitchell said “with writing it’s almost personal. This is a piece of me. 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 allow people to step in and (this) is my attempt do that.”

To coincide with the release of his book, Mitchell created a foundation, and information on it can be found at readwithmalcolm.com.

He self-published the book, but he has since signed on with Scholastic Books, and this month “The Magician’s Hat” received a second edition.

It’s the same words, but as Mitchell said last week, “the illustrations are vibrant, more eye-catching. Scholastic published the book which I’m super happy to be a part of their family. The text was added to make it a little more magical. We just took it to the next level, and being with Scholastic helped me achieve that.”

It was primarily through the efforts of Robyn McCann that he ended up at Callaway Elementary School.

McCann, a passionate fan of the Georgia Bulldogs, used her connections to help bring Mitchell to the school.

McCann is close to former Callaway Cavalier Terry Godwin, who was a teammate of Mitchell’s at Georgia in 2015.

“His work is awesome, and he’s an awesome kid,” McCann said of Mitchell.

Mitchell has enjoyed hitting the road to promote his book, and he takes particularly joy from interacting with children.

“My foundation does a ton of stuff during the year,” Mitchell said. “But my time is limited because of my day job. So during the offseason when I have an opportunity to go to schools, that’s the one moment throughout the year that I get to interact, and be with the kids. So it’s fun for me.”

Mitchell fervently believes in the power of reading, and his parting message to the students at Callaway Elementary stressed the importance of the written word.

“Every goal you set for yourself can come true,” Mitchell said. “You have to work hard, you have to pay attention, and you have to read.”

On the football field, Mitchell is preparing for his third season in the NFL.

As a rookie in 2016, Mitchell was a vital cog on a New England team that won the Super Bowl thanks to a dramatic come-from-behind win over the Atlanta Falcons.

Mitchell finished the season with 32 catches for 401 yards, and he had six receptions for 70 yards in the Super Bowl.

The 2017 season was a tough one for Mitchell, who was unable to play because of an injury while the Patriots reached the Super Bowl once again.

Mitchell is fully healthy now, and he’s hoping to be catching passes from Tom Brady when the season begins in September.

Mitchell was taken in the fourth round of the NFL draft in 2016, and he’s obviously thrilled with how things worked out.

“I love it there,” he said. “Boston is a great place, and the Patriots are a phenomenal organization. I’m lucky. I’ve been to two Super Bowls in two years.”

Wherever Mitchell’s football takes him, he will continue to be an advocate for reading, and the importance of it for young people.

“I know if kids grasp that concept at an early age, it gives them a better chance to succeed,” Mitchell said.

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