Before the final minutes of last night’s Super Bowl no one knew the name Malcolm Butler. Even the staunchest of New England Patriots’ fans couldn’t have picked him out of a line-up.
But in a game filled with stars the likes of Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and Rob Gronkowski, Malcolm Butler is the name that will be remembered.
After weeks of speculation on whether Brady and Coach Bill Belichick deflated footballs and a week of talk about why Marshawn Lynch wouldn’t, there actually was a football game to be be played.
And when the smoke from Katy Perry’s halftime fireworks had cleared, those of us who have been struggling throughout this disaster-plagued football season to find a reason to even support this sport; those of us sick of rich spoiled athletes who hit their girlfriends or take performance enhancing drugs and lie about it; those who are sick of hearing physicists explain psi’s and the air molecules in a football and how many balls could be deflated by a “person of interest” in 90 seconds in a bathroom; for all of us, the closing minutes of last night’s Super Bowl, was a much-needed reminder of what we love about sports.
It’s stories like that of Malcolm Butler, a 5’11’’ undrafted rookie out of West Alabama. He’s the only player from that school to play in a Super Bowl. But even getting to West Alabama was not easy. Butler started his college career at Hinds Community College where he was kicked out early in his Freshman year.
He spent 2010 working at a Popeye’s. He returned to Hinds for one more year, then moved on to West Alabama where despite a good career there, he was undrafted. In fact, only the Patriots even offered him a tryout well after most other 90-man rosters were already filled.
And though he made the roster, he didn’t get a lot of playing time. He had only made 15 tackles total before the big game. In fact, he wasn’t even part of the team’s original Super Bowl game plan. He was inserted as the Patriots fifth defensive back to help defend against Chris Matthews, a a Seahawks receiver having unexpected success in the game.
Adding to the drama was that several plays earlier, Butler was the defender on the unlikely Jermaine Kearse catch, where Butler deflected the ball only to have Kearse juggle it and catch it on his back. It was this catch that put the Seahawks in position to possibly win the game.
“I went to the sideline, wasn’t feeling too well, my teammates were trying to cheer me up and said I made a great play,” Butler said while noting he felt he would be viewed as the reason the Patriots lost. Just devastating.”
But that was not to be Butler’s lasting memory on this night. With the game on the line, the ball on the New England 1 yard line, Seattle questionably decided to throw for the go-ahead score. But Butler had other ideas.
He jumped the route, making a game-saving, season-saving interception.
It was the first interception of his NFL career.
“I had a vision that I was going to make a big play, and it came true,” Butler.
His quarterback, Tom Brady, agreed:
“Malcolm made the play of the year to save our season.”
After the game Butler said that he felt “blessed and thankful” and that winning a Super Bowl was “a dream come true.”
What could be next for this 24-year old improbable Superbowl hero?
“I’m going to Disney World.”
And the fairy tale is complete.