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New book another step in Malachi Coleman's journey to make a difference
Malachi Coleman wants to be known for more than what he accomplishes on the football field. A new children's book about his life is another step in his journey.
There’s a quiz at the end of Malachi Coleman’s Book, titled ‘Fly Like Chi! The Malachi Coleman Story,’ that has questions ranging from Coleman’s favorite cereal to the name of his dogs. It’s Coleman’s favorite part of the book, mostly because it highlights the different sides to him that many may not know.
In his first year at Nebraska, Coleman has played in 10 games with five starts — so far. He’s had six receptions for 120 yards and one touchdown over those 10 games. He’s only at the beginning of his journey with Nebraska, but the ceiling feels high for the freshman wide receiver from Lincoln.
That’s great too, especially as Coleman works toward his dream of playing in the NFL. That’s not all he is focused on though. Coleman wants to be known for more than what he accomplishes on the football field.
That’s where the book comes in.
Coleman’s mom, Miranda, remembers being floored when Andy Vodopia reached out about the possibility of bringing Malachi’s story to life through a children’s book.
Vodopia is the CEO for Exit 56 Publications, a publishing company that “works with college athletes to create fun family books featuring your favorite athletes.” When you buy a book from Exit 56 Publications, you directly support the athletes featured within its pages.
Malachi’s story became the fourth title Vodopia and Exit 56 Publications helped write and publish.
For Miranda, the opportunity to have her son featured in a children’s book was exciting. The potential impact his story could make was even more so.
“I think about how many kids in the foster care system maybe don’t have books that they can go to and relate to,” Miranda said. “Seeing Malachi’s story, it tugs on my heart strings anyway, but seeing him in cartoon form? It just warms my heart and it’s been so much fun to see it come together.”
The 32-page hardcover book tells the story of Malachi and his sister Nevaeh on their journey through the foster care system and into the home of the Coleman family. After their father passed away when they were young, Malachi’s and Nevaeh’s mom dropped them off at a stranger’s home when they were only five and two years old. They never saw her again.
Miranda and her husband Craig had been looking into the opportunity of fostering, but originally thought they’d only foster one child at a time. That was until Malachi and Nevaeh came along.
Fly Like Chi! The Malachi Coleman Story tells that story in depth, as well as highlights who Malachi is beyond sports. It shares more about his interests, what ultimately inspires him and more.
“This is my fourth book and I can tell you already that it’s not like any of the other ones,” Vodopia said.
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About halfway through the book, there’s a two-page spread that shares a little on Malachi and his belief in “opening doors” for others. It was something Miranda had said to him once and it left a big impact, especially as Malachi learned to value himself.
“She really emphasized that if you want to feel better about yourself, you have to be able to love yourself, and you can't love yourself with the way I was treating myself,” Malachi said. “I hated myself when I was a little kid but she helped me open up by starting to help others.
“Once I realized how good it made me feel helping others, I realized it's something that I always wanted to do.”
That started at Lincoln East High School when Malachi decided to use his name, image and likeness to partner with Muchachos — a local restaurant owned by Nick Maestas — for the “Giverito,” a two-meat hatch macaroni and cheese burrito. A percentage of the sales of each Giverito is given to Malachi, which he in turn donates to Fly Like Chi, his foundation that helps children within the foster care system.
Now that has expanded to a Sports Combine set to take place in early January 2024, as well as the book. Fly Like Chi! The Malachi Coleman Story will not only raise money — proceeds from the signed copies of the book by former Nebraska head coach and athletic director Tom Osborne will be split between the Teammates and Fly Like Chi foundations — but the book itself will also be provided to children in foster care.
For Vodopia, it’s been an incredible experience to work on the book because of Malachi’s investment.
“Malachi is passionate about this,” Vodopia said. “He’s more involved, which is one thing, but he’s also just really passionate about his charity and giving back.”
As for Malachi, this is all done with the intention of making a difference for those who were once in his shoes.
“I want them to have what I couldn't have,” Malachi said. “I want them to feel what I didn't feel. I want them to just know that everything can be OK.”
The support for the book has been incredible so far. That includes the support of Osborne, who wrote the foreword of the book. Having Osborne included in the project meant a great deal to the Colemans.
“When I got the email, Malachi happened to be home,” Miranda said about the moment when Osborne signed on for the foreword. “Malachi and Craig were sitting at the dining room table and I read the email and everything just stopped. I just looked at them and said, ‘Oh my gosh.’”
Seeing how his parents reacted to the news made it even more special for Malachi.
“Just having someone like him want to do this for us, it was amazing,” Malachi said.
It was all meant to be too. When Vodopia went to pitch the book to be carried in local stores, he first called Best of Big Red in Lincoln. He didn’t know at the time that the man on the other side of the telephone line, Mike Osborne, was related to Tom.
“I told him I was thinking about this book, but I didn’t give him a name,” Vodopia said. “I’m telling him about it and Mike said, ‘If this book is with Malachi Coleman, I’ll order it right now.’ I’m not kidding, that’s how the conversation went.
“That’s when I realized we just might have something.”
And something they sure have.
Malachi has big dreams, which he’ll continue to work at and chase as a member of Nebraska’s football program. His book shows another side of those dreams and what’s possible for those who look up to him.
“It will inspire you in multiple ways,” Malachi said about the book.
It’s a story that the Colemans — alongside Vodopia — hope will make a difference. However, it’s also a story that doesn't have an ending.
As the last page of the book says, this is “just the beginning.”