We met former New England Patriots wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, who is now a free agent, when he was visiting Manhattan recently. We talked about football and his new children’s book, “The Magician’s Hat.”
What inspired you to write children’s books?
I think what really inspired me the most to write children’s books is my process into reading because growing up, I wasn’t a good reader. And once I got to college and I started to read, I had to start all over again with children’s books. And I would go to schools and I read books with kids. And I wanted to give them something to read also. So the best way to do that was a picture book.
What do you say to the kids with big dreams after reading your new book?
I tell all kids to follow your dreams, to pursue them with everything that you have within you. And I promise that books can help you accomplish those goals, because it definitely helped me.
In “The Magician’s Hat,” why did you decide to have books come out of the hat?
You know at first the story started with, I think, the magician losing the rabbit, and there’s some way books were involved in finding the rabbit. But you know the idea of the old magic trick of pulling a rabbit out of a hat? I wanted to work off that, so kids reached deep down inside and pulled out a book that’s meant especially for them . . . I thought [that was] a good idea.
When you joined the all-women’s book club in Athens, Georgia, was it really to get a girlfriend?
Ha, ha, ha. No, it was not. I think the ladies would appreciate you saying that. It was actually to be surrounded by readers. I still talk to the book club today, and I appreciate them. But I do have some donors that are my age, so you never know, I might find one of them.
What goals do you set for yourself for the future?
The future, man, that’s a tough question. I have two more books to write. So I hope to do that. I’m an athlete, so I hope to become better at football and further my career at that, and promote literacy. Those are the three things that I focus on the majority of the time.
Where do you see yourself in five to 10 years?
I hope to have a bunch of books out. In five years I hope to still be considered a professional athlete. And I hope to travel the world, not just our country, and talk about the importance of reading and how books can help kids accomplish their goals. I set some big goals, I know.
In high school or college, did you want to play any other sports besides football?
In high school I played basketball but in college, no, I was football all the way.
What player inspired you when you were younger?
When I was younger, I didn’t even watch football growing up. I was into cartoons. Shows like “Jimmy Neutron.” “Rocket Power.” I was outside playing the majority of the time. So I was either outside or watching cartoons.
What are the similarities between being an author and a football player?
Persistence. Those are the similarities between being an author and a football player because on the field everything doesn’t go your way. And as a writer you might write a story and the next day you might think it’s bad. Or you have to start all over. I just think that the ability to keep pushing forward goes with both of those.
Your jersey number, 19, is that a special number to you?
It is now. When I was drafted, that’s the number they gave me, so I really don’t argue about it.
What was it like playing into your first official NFL game and Super Bowl?
My first NFL game, I think I actually dislocated my elbow in it. So it was a fun game and I was excited. I was just happy I was getting the opportunity to play in front of millions of people. It was a dream come true. And the Super Bowl is a game like no other. If you can think of the most excited you’ve ever been, and that’s how it feels. It’s tough to explain.
What are your thoughts about football concussions today?
I think concussions are very serious. With reading being so important to me, particularly your mind is something that’s very very important. I leave it up to doctors to figure out the best way to handle it. I have no idea. I just play the game. But I hope athletes, especially football players, speak up when they do have these injuries because football is phenomenal, but we all know that there has to be a life beyond football. And you want to make sure you’re as healthy as possible for that.
Allison Krieb and Mike MacKenzie’s sixth-grade class, Longwood Middle School, Middle Island