Malcolm Mitchell announced his retirement Saturday, and that really stinks.
A fourth-round pick of the New England Patriots in 2016, Mitchell once look destined to be a fixture of the team’s offense and a favorite of quarterback Tom Brady. The University of Georgia product hauled in 32 catches for 401 yards and four touchdowns in his rookie season, and capped off the promising campaign with six catches for 70 yards in New England’s Super Bowl LI win over the Atlanta Falcons.
But a knee injury cost Mitchell his entire sophomore season, and the nagging ailment led to the once-promising receiver being cut weeks before the start of the 2018 season. During an appearance at his alma mater Saturday, Mitchell announced he was retiring from the NFL at age 26.
Again, that really stinks.
In case you forgot just how key Mitchell was in the Patriots’ improbable comeback win over the Falcons, here’s a reminder:
Mitchell wasn’t a player who blew you away with blazing speed, ridiculous vertical or other-worldly skill. He was solid, smart and — for a time — reliable. To put it another way: He was the ideal Patriots receiver.
Most importantly, he was (and, of course, continues to be) a good guy. Mitchell wrote a children’s book, “The Magician’s Hat,” while in college, and leads the Read With Malcolm literacy initiative and Share The Magic Foundation. All indications are he’ll continue those endeavors during his post-football life.
Ultimately, Mitchell’s Patriots career will be looked at as a “what could have been,” rather than for what it was. And that’s fine, as it’s hard to view his brief New England tenure as anything other than unfortunate.
Still, let’s not forget that had it not been for Mitchell, the Patriots might not have pulled off the most stunning win in Super Bowl history. There are certainly worse things to be remembered for.