Those close to Malcolm Butler know the cornerback’s journey hasn’t been easy.
Butler carved out a place in NFL history Sunday when he intercepted Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson near the goal line with 20 seconds remaining to lift the New England Patriots to a 28-24 win in Super Bowl XLIX. The play is validation of the 24-year-old’s hard work amid adversity.
“As soon as he made his break on the interception, we started to scream,” Brett Gilliland, who coached Butler at the University of Alabama, told TMZ Sports. “We went crazy. It was chaotic.”
Butler’s path to Super Bowl stardom has been long and winding. He was kicked off his community college football team as a freshman in 2009, prompting him to become a part-time employee at Popeyes. He returned to the school in 2011 before transferring to West Alabama and having a solid season at the Division II level. Butler went undrafted in 2014.
“Malcolm’s got a great story. He was dealt some bad hands in life,” Gilliland said. “There was a time when he wasn’t on the right path. He got his life back on track. … Then (Sunday night) happened.”
The Patriots signed Butler on May 19, 2014. He appeared in 11 regular-season games and played a limited role in New England’s overall success. Butler stepped up at a crucial moment Sunday, though, and he’ll now go down in Patriots lore.
“He just needed a shot, and the Pats were the only team that’d give him it,” Gilliland told TMZ Sports. “Credit to them. They believed in him, and he repaid them.”
Thumbnail photo via Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports Images