By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — You could count on one hand the number of wide receivers who have succeeded in their rookie seasons while playing with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. The list of rookie receivers who have succeeded with Brady and won a Super Bowl contains just one name: Malcolm Mitchell.
The Georgia native was drafted in the fourth round in 2016 out of Georgia. He amassed 401 yards and scored four touchdowns in the regular season of his rookie year, before he caught six passes for 70 yards as part of the Patriots’ historic Super Bowl comeback to beat the Falcons.
It was a tremendous start to what looked to be a very promising career. But then it was over. After walking off the field in Houston as a Super Bowl champion, Mitchell never played another down in the NFL.
Chronic knee issues prevented him from getting on the field in 2017, and the Patriots ultimately released Mitchell in the summer of 2018. In a new short film, Mitchell shared his entire injury history.
“I should probably start when I broke my leg in seventh grade,” Mitchell said in part one of the film “Treasure Box,” which he directed and shared via Instagram. “Then a torn meniscus in 10th grade. Another torn meniscus my sophomore year in college. Tag on an ACL and another meniscus. Fractured hip. And another knee surgery after that. And another one. Then another one. Then another one.”
As Mitchell put it: “I started spending more time on crutches than my own two feet.”
An emotional and honest Mitchell shared what life is like without football.
“I feel enraged. Useless. Scared, you know? I don’t have any memories of myself without football,” Mitchell said. “And that’s how I was gonna take care of my family. With football, it was easy to see into the future. You know, without it, things get a bit blurry from time to time. … If you wake up in the dark every day, how do you know when you’re going forwards or backwards? Because that’s where I’m at.”
Now 27 years old, Mitchell said he had to make the decision to leave football, though injuries left him little real choice.
“I felt like I was forced to make a decision,” Mitchell said. “It was either continue trying to play football or start living my life. And I made a choice. Reluctantly, you know?”
“Those who know me say nothing,” he continued. “Those who think they know me don’t understand. Everything in my life has stemmed from football. Friends, some family, money, love, hope. What hurts is not what anybody will say or can say. It’s what I gotta tell myself about this phase of my life. That’s going to be the issue — what I tell myself.
“But what somebody could say won’t make me feel any better or worse than I already do.”
Mitchell announced his official retirement this past March, and he’s dedicated much of his time to promoting youth literacy — a cause that’s near and dear to his heart — through his Read With Malcolm initiative. His new film, though, shows that no matter what life may bring, the pain of having football taken from him will not soon be fading.