Vicksburg High grad grabs the spotlight with spectacular Super Bowl play cinching victory for his team
By BECKY GILLETTEMalcolm Butler has gone from a college football player who initially wasn’t even drafted by the pros to a household name and a Vicksburg hometown hero who has made Mississippi proud.
Butler would have been a very long odds choice to be the star of the Super Bowl played Feb. 1, 2015. His interception of a pass at the one-yard line with only 20 seconds to go in the game was credited with cinching a New England Patriots’ 28-24 Super Bowl XLIX win over the Seattle Seahawks. But this was his first NFL interception, he had only started once that season, and almost missed even becoming a professional football player.
The famous play that cinched a win for the Patriots was not an accident. Butler credited great preparation and coaching by Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia for helping Butler figure out which Seahawks player would be receiving the pass—so Butler could be poised to make the interception.
“Every player dreams of making a big play,” Butler said. “Leading up to the game, there were some thoughts about it. A couple of days before the game, an Uber driver told my mom I was going to have a good game and make a big play.”
What could possibly eclipse a great play like that in the first season of the 25-year-old’s pro career?
“On the field, that will be hard to beat,” Butler said. “I was blessed to make one of the biggest plays in Super Bowl history to help my team win at the end of the game. Hopefully, we can work hard and get back in that position to win it all again. But I don’t know if I will ever make that type of play again. And that’s ok. I can live with that.”
Butler faced lot of obstacles that made it unlikely he would make it to the big leagues. He believes it isn’t just natural physical talent, but concentration and mental strategizing that have helped him be successful.
“I have worked hard and overcome many challenges to get here,” Butler said. “Many people back home in Mississippi know my story. I had to overcome the odds at Vicksburg High with only playing my freshman and senior years. I had to overcome challenges at Hinds Junior College, only to leave and enroll at Alcorn State before coming back to Hinds, and finally making it to West Alabama. I have to thank New England Patriot scout Frantzy Jourdain for spotting me and believing in me, and Coach Belichick and other coaches for giving me a chance.”
The most famous 2009 high school grad from Mississippi has advice for high school students looking to also make their mark on the year.
“It does not matter where you come from,” Butler said. “It’s where you are going. You should be proud of Mississippi, and where you are from. Vicksburg and Mississippi made me who I am today. So I will tell anyone from Mississippi, if they work hard, believe in themselves, don’t give up and follow their dreams, they can achieve anything they set their mind to. I have to thank God. I am living proof that if I can do it, anyone can.”
Butler gets back to Vicksburg as much as he can with such a demanding profession. Since the NFL is a full-time, year-around job, he doesn’t return home as often as he would like to.
“However, I get back when I can,” Butler said. “I really enjoyed working with the kids during my first annual Malcolm Butler Football Camp sponsored by the Vickburg Booster Club, and look forward to hosting it again next year.”
Lorenzo Breland, director of football operations, Vicksburg High School, said the great thing about the free football camp held in the summer of 2015 is that boys participating were inspired by Butler, seeing someone from their hometown who has gone on to national fame and success.
Butler’s high school football coach Alonzo Stevens said when Butler asked to join the football team his senior year after missing play for two years, Stevens told him he could come out for practice “and maybe hold a dummy for me.”
“But he quickly surpassed my expectations with his speed, skills, and work ethic,” Stevens said. “He was so valuable on defense. He is a young man with all the promise in the world. He works hard. What you see is what you get, a down home country boy who is very genuine.”
Butler stays so focused on becoming a better and better player that he doesn’t have time for hobbies.
“I have to focus on football, and when I get some free time, I love spending time with my son,” Butler said.
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