Gurley brings former teammate, NFL champion Mitchell to Tarboro for day of fun

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Los Angeles Rams running back and former Tarboro High School standout Todd Gurley, bottom, sits as magician John Logan, left, and former New England Patriots wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell perform a magic trick with a cup of orange juice Monday during a reading rally at Tarboro High School.


Staff Writer

Monday, March 4, 2019

TARBORO — Some 700 students from Princeville and Stocks elementary schools got brand new backpacks, a free book, a magic show and a reading lesson from a Super Bowl champion and a couple of hometown heroes in the Tarboro High Gymnasium on Monday during what was called a "Reading Rally."

Former Tarboro football standouts Todd Gurley II and Tyquan Lewis joined former New England Patriots Super Bowl champion wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell in helping deliver the message "You have to read to succeed" through the group reading of Mitchell's book, "The Magician's Hat."

Gurley and Mitchell played football together at the University of Georgia and Gurley said because of the message Mitchell delivers about the importance of reading, he wanted to bring him to his hometown.

Edgecombe County Public Schools Superintendent Valerie Bridges said the program was important to the community.

"This was huge," she said. "A lot of communities have professional athletes who come back and do things, but it is generally sports-related. Todd has held camps and given equipment, but for he and Tyquan to tell students how important it is that they be able to read is really huge. You saw the kids ... they really look up to them and this is so important."

Mitchell said he wrote "The Magician's Hat" while still at the University of Georgia, but it wasn't published until he was out of college.

Mitchell drew on his time with the Patriots to get magician John Logan to come along. Logan, who was known as the Patriots' team magician, got the kids and Gurley involved in a series of magic tricks.

Mitchell told the students that he remembered coming home from school one day and being down in the dumps because he had difficulty reading and had had a bad day playing football.

He said his mother took him into the kitchen and using three pots, a carrot, an egg and some coffee, showed him how things could change and how he could change from not being able to read to enjoying reading.

According to biographical material, Mitchell read at the third-grade level when he began college but grew to love reading; even joining a woman's reading club to expand his ability to read. The bio said Mitchell is more proud of his reading accomplishments than of making it to the Super Bowl.

After sharing some magic with the students, Mitchell asked Gurley and Lewis to join him in reading "The Magician's Hat" to the students, each reading a page as the students turned pages with them to follow along.

After the program, Mitchell said that learning to read better changed the way he began to think and that he became more creative.

"The message I want kids to get is that reading can help you be what you want to be," he said.

Gurley, with an ever-present wide smile on his face, said, "It's always fun to be able to come back home and it was just awesome to have the opportunity to bring Malcolm here to Tarboro as well as another Tarboro guy, Tyquan. This is fun."

Gurley said he is appreciative of Mitchell's efforts.

"Malcolm definitely showed me the importance of reading and I loved being able to jump on board with him," he said.

Lewis said he loved coming back home and watching kids in the community grow up and having the opportunity to be a positive role model.

"Reading is powerful," he said. "I start every day by reading something."

A total of 756 backpacks were provided by James Ferrell, who is a business partner with Gurley in Sprayground, a backpack manufacturer.

"We knew it was second semester and we wanted all the kids to have a backpack to finish the school year with," Ferrell said. "We didn't want everyone to have the same backpack, so we did limited runs so the kids could get different backpacks."