Tallahassee Journal

Malcolm Butler rises from anonymity to save Patriots

Malcolm Butler rises from anonymity to save Patriots

The cheers back in Livingston, Ala., told the story of one of the most improbable heroes in Super Bowl history. Undrafted and largely unknown until he snatched a championship for the New England Patriots on Sunday night, rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler is now a legend and then some back on campus at the University of West Alabama.635584478465910056-C06-FINAL-02-70511688

“It’s going crazy,” West Alabama coach Brett Gilliland said. “I walked outside to clean up some stuff, because we had a cookout. I’m right across from campus. You can just hear people shouting ‘UWA!’ and ‘Malcolm!’ It’s great for this community.” Who could’ve predicted Patriots coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady wouldn’t have their fourth Super Bowl win if not for a Division II player who needed to go through a tryout camp in May just to be offered a spot on the 90-man roster?

Butler, 24, wasn’t even part of the rotation to start Super Bowl XLIX. Yet there he was with 26 seconds to go and the Seahawks on the Patriots’ 1-yard line, breaking on a fateful pass by Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson and making an interception to preserve a 28-24 triumph. “I was so emotional,” Butler said. “I had a feeling I was going to make a big play, but not that big.”

One of five children raised by his mother in Vicksburg, Miss., Butler started his college football career at nearby Hinds Community College, where he was dismissed from the program five games into his freshman season and ended up working part-time at a Popeyes chicken joint, only to get a second chance the following year. When West Alabama began recruiting him, along with a Hinds teammate and offensive lineman named John Gustavis, receivers coach and director of football operations Michael McCarty said he saw Butler as “a really good personality, a quiet guy” he liked immediately. “We were probably really lucky that he only had that one year on film,” McCarty said, “because who knows if we would’ve had an opportunity to get him if he had the full two years there?”