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Malcolm Mitchell was everything a Georgia football player should strive to be

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Malcolm Mitchell is a great ambassador for Georgia football

If you played out Malcolm Mitchell’s athletic career 10 times, I believe the other nine times he ends up having a better football career than the one he ended up having.

Mitchell announced his retirement on Friday at the University of Georgia while giving a Ted Talk. He is 25 years old, but multiple knee injuries forced him to walk away from the game he was so good at.

For those who don’t remember, Mitchell finished his time at Georgia third all-time in receptions and fifth all-time in receiving yards. And Mitchell wasn’t just a compiler, as he came with a number of clutch plays for the Bulldogs. His most iconic play is perhaps his touchdown from the 2012 Florida game that gave the Bulldogs the winning margin.

Mitchell’s also arguably as famous for his work off the field, as he was for his stellar play on it. His story on growing from someone who entered Georgia at a third grade reading level to a published author is well-known by this point. In addition to writing his own children’s book —  “The Magician’s Hat” — Mitchell was a huge advocate for literacy in and around the Athens area. His off-field works drew national attention from a number of news outlets.

While it was shorter than anyone hoped for, Mitchell did still have a significant NFL moment in his time with the New England Patriots. In Super Bowl 51, Mitchell finished with 6 catches for 70 yards. Five of those catches came in the fourth quarter as the Patriots famously rallied from 28-3 deficit to win 34-28 in overtime. That game ended up being Mitchell’s final football game, as he missed all of the 2017 season while on injured reserve. The Patriots released Mitchell in August of 2018.

Mitchell’s athletic career was forever changed in the opening game of Georgia’s 2013 season. After having strong seasons as a freshman and sophomore, Mitchell was expected to continue to develop as a junior for an incredibly potent offense. After a long Todd Gurley touchdown run, Mitchell went to go celebrate with Gurley. He came down awkwardly and suffered his first serious injury on a flukey play. He’d miss the remainder of the 2013 season, as well as the start of the 2014 season as well.

If Mitchell doesn’t suffer a freak injury, Georgia almost certainly has a better 2013 season. Mitchell likely goes on to have a stronger NFL career. For those who don’t remember just how great of an athlete Mitchell was, he also played defensive back at Georgia in addition to be a wide receiver.

When thinking about the game of football and the crushing brutality that comes with it, I think of a quote from the movie “Triple Frontier.”

“The effects of committing acts of extreme violence on other human beings are biological and physiological,” Charlie Hunnam’s character said. “That’s the price of being a warrior.”

Mitchell’s body — his knees specifically — paid the price that comes with being a football player. But he was so much more than a warrior or an athlete. While the game of football and his body failed him, Mitchell kept pushing forward and became a true role model for so many in the Georgia community. Mitchell became so much more than just another football player with knee issues.

When I spoke with Mitchell before the 2015 season, he called the initial injury  — and the events that inspired him to become a true star off the field  — a real blessing.

“Without the injury, there is no guarantee that none of this is taking place. And this means so much to me,” Mitchell said. “I wouldn’t want to be without this book. If that means that I wouldn’t have it without having the injury, then I would have the injury.”

The phrase Damn Good Dawg isn’t a strong enough descriptor for Mitchell. He’s everything a University of Georgia alum should strive to be.

Why Isaac Nauta might have one more suitor in the NFL draft

In recent years, the New England Patriots have liked to take Georgia players. They took Mitchell in the 2016 NFL Draft. David Andrews was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2015. And Sony Michel and Isaiah Wynn were taken in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the team.

And now with an opening at tight end, Isaac Nauta makes some sense as the next player who could be a part of the Georgia-to-New England pipeline.

Rob Gronkowski, arguably the best tight end in the history of the NFL, announced his retirement on Sunday. He’s been a staple of the Patriots offense over the past decade. His catch in Super Bowl 53 set-up Michel’s 1-yard score, which proved to be the game’s only touchdown.

Nauta didn’t have the best NFL combine, but he improved on some of his testing numbers at Georgia’s pro day last week. And Nauta proved in his time at Georgia he was a very talented tight end. He finished last season with 30 catches for 430 yards, despite never being a real focal point in the offense.

Related: How Bill Belichick became the latest piece in the Kirby Smart-Nick Saban rivalry

The Georgia tight end also played well in some of the Bulldogs’ biggest games. His best two games from a yardage standpoint came against Florida and Alabama last season.

A number of fans don’t enjoy rooting for New England, and that’s certainly understandable. But given the need for the Patriots at the tight end position, Nauta would be a perfect fir in New England.

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