Few rookie wide receivers have looked as promising during the New England Patriots’ dynastic run as Malcolm Mitchell: a fourth-round pick out of Georgia, he carved out a role as a rotational third/fourth option on New England’s stacked 2016 offense and finished his first year in the NFL with a combined 39 catches for 476 yards and four touchdowns, including a six-catch, 70-yard performance in Super Bowl 51.
Last week — two years removed from playing a key role in the Patriots’ fifth championship run — Mitchell took to social media to announce his retirement from pro football. The decision did not come as too big a surprise: after a knee injury cost him the entire 2017 season, New England opted to release him in August 2018. He remained on the open market ever since due to questions still surrounding his physical ability to play.
Yesterday, the 25-year-old opened up about his retirement for the first time since stepping away from the game. Speaking at a reading rally at Boston’s Michael J. Perkins School, where he read from his book The Magician’s Hat, Mitchell shared the thought process behind his decision. “I just evaluated my self-worth off the field, and for a long time, it never surpassed what I could do on the field. It just didn’t,” he said (via patriots.com).
“Then I think, even being here and doing stuff in the community, it started to shift,” Mitchell continued when talking about his retirement. “My self-worth and what I think I can deliver creatively, inspirationally and from a foundation standpoint like today, began to surpass — not monetarily by any means — but it started to surpass the legacy of what I could accomplish as a football player dealing with the injuries that I had.”
Mitchell also described his on-field career. “Lucky. Fortunate. If you want to be spiritual, I’ll say blessed. Think about it: I haven’t played a football game since then. That was 2017. I haven’t played a football game since 2017. That’s the last game I played. I know it’s very Peyton Manning of me to say, ‘Man, what a way for me to go out.’ I was lucky because after that I never played a football game again,” he said.
“I barely practiced after that. Whatever higher power, whatever force, however you want to phrase it, whatever it is, gave me enough time to accomplish something that millions of people hope to and never will,” Mitchell continued. “I have that, and I’m very thankful for it because that’s something that regardless of what happens to me next, it won’t go away. I will be a part of the 2017 Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.”
Following his retirement, Michell will of course remain actively involved in the community — just like he did when he was still playing — through his Read With Malcolm foundation and as an author of children’s literature. “You know, I’m not 100% sure where I’ll end up in life,” he said. “With football it’s easy to see into the future and build an idea of where you want to end up. With that gone, it’s been a little hazy to see where I’ll end up.”
“But one thing I hope people in New England know is that I made sure I went out a Patriot,” said Mitchell. And even though he was unable to live up to the expectations he himself created through a tremendous rookie campaign, Mitchell’s role in that one championship will forever closely tie him to the club and its region — as will his continuing work off the field.