Malcolm Butler, surrounded by media, was reminded that Wednesday was two years ago to the day that he played the part of Super Bowl hero. His interception of Russell Wilson saved the day for the New England Patriots.
“Yes,” he said with a sigh. “I’m aware.”
How could be forget?
As much as Butler has tried to downplay his part in Super Bowl XLIX, it established his place in history.
“It was an awesome journey,” Butler said. “I am most definitely known for that play – making one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history. It helped my career. That is pretty much all I can say. I got us a ring. …I am worried about this Super Bowl, and we are trying to win this as a team.”
Butler, though, has proved to be a bona fide star instead of a one-hit wonder. He made the Pro Bowl last season and earned second-team All-Pro honors this season after making four interceptions and 16 pass breakups.
“He’s one of the most unbelievable stories and journeys of the last 30 years in pro football,” Patriots special teams ace Matthew Slater said. “To go from a guy who was a tryout guy, not even a free agent, to that same year [making] one of the best plays in Super Bowl history. I think the growth that he’s shown over the last couple of seasons has been tremendous.
“He’s gone from a guy who was a depth player to now a top corner, a guy who we heavily rely on, a guy who we match up with the other team’s best receiver at times. What you’ve seen is really just a guy who has grown in confidence, who has grown in his understanding of the game, a guy who’s not afraid to compete, a guy who is not afraid of the moment, and I think he just continues to get better and better.”
Cornerbacks Larry Brown, Randy Beverly and Tracy Porter made their names in the Super Bowl as did safety Dexter Jackson.
Of the 127 interceptions in Super Bowls, cornerbacks made 54. Forty-three came from cornerbacks with no prayer of getting a bust in Canton, with the Super Bowl stage turning “who’s he?” cornerbacks into “who’s who!” cornerbacks.
Butler is the most recent cornerback with an interception in the Super Bowl, and it ranks as one of the greatest plays in history.
The Seahawks had three plays to win the game from the 1-yard line in the waning seconds. On second-and-goal, Butler jumped Ricardo Lockette’s route and picked off Wilson with 20 seconds remaining.
“I had an idea [what the play was],” Butler said. “We ran the play in practice, and I got beat on it. It was down in the red area, and… I was expecting run. The receiver movement told me whether it was pass or run. The receiver gave me the signal it was pass, and I just broke on the route.”
Butler doesn’t remember anything after that.
“I just picked the ball and held onto it,” he said.
Butler didn’t even know until 90 minutes before the game whether he would even play. A rookie that season, he played only 11 games in the regular season – 184 defensive snaps -- with no interceptions and seven pass breakups.
Butler played only 18 defensive snaps in the Super Bowl.
Afterward, Butler said coach Bill Belichick told him, “Long way from [Division II] West Alabama, huh?”
“Once we saw Malcolm on the field after the first workout [in a rookie minicamp], it was pretty obvious that we felt like this was the type of kid that we want to work with,” Belichick said. “He was raw technique-wise and all of that. He had a good training camp and got a little bit of playing time during the year.”
This week, Butler has become one of the most popular interviews. He is expected to play a key role in helping defend All-Pro receiver Julio Jones, who has caught 15 of 20 targets for 247 yards and three touchdowns in two postseason games.
“Whatever I am told to do, I am going to go out there and do it to help my team win,” Butler said. “It is more than one player on a team. It is more than Malcolm Butler and Julio Jones. It is 10 other players out there. It is a team game, and we are ready to play team ball.”