Around this time in the year 2000, a linebacker by the name of Mike Jones won the Super Bowl for the St. Louis Rams with a game-saving tackle of the Titans’ Kevin Dyson at the 1-yard line.
If you say the name Mike Jones 17 years later, people are more likely to think of the Houston-based rapper who had a quick flash of relevance from ’04-’06 with songs like “Back Then” and “Still Tippin'”. In other words, a guy who made one of the biggest plays in Super Bowl history wasn’t able to do enough with the rest of his career to overshadow the legacy of a mediocre rapper who gained fame by repeating his name at the beginning of his songs. (Who? Mike Jones!)
Two years ago, Patriots undrafted rookie Malcolm Butler introduced himself to the world by intercepting Russell Wilson at the goal line to win the Super Bowl. I’m unaware of any other famous Malcolm Butlers at the moment, but I don’t think the 26 year-old cornerback has to worry about anyone taking his spot.
At the time of that interception, Butler was simply known as the guy who made the single biggest play in the entire existence of the Patriots franchise. Whether he had a career ahead of him in New England or he would go down as another “one play wonder” would remain to be seen.
Now we have our answer. In the 24 months since stepping up and changing the course of football history, Butler has established himself as one of the best corners in the game. With a Pro Bowl selection last year and an inexplicable snub this year, he’s become the type of guy you rely on to slow down the top receivers in the game.
That’s exactly what he did with Antonio Brown in the AFC Championship, and he’ll be called on to do it again with Julio Jones this Sunday. The Patriots are ending their season by going against the two best wide-outs the NFL has to offer, so having an elite corner is a must on their road to winning the Super Bowl. Luckily, that’s exactly what Malcolm Butler has become.
To say Butler has a strong work ethic would be a gross understatement. The man went from serving chicken at Popeye’s to a Super Bowl hero in less than four years. Now, two years after that he’s the top corner on the stingiest defense in football and he’s heading back to the big game.
The best part is that his quick rise to stardom hasn’t gone to his head. He works his ass off and he’s humble, which is basically everything Bill Belichick looks for in a football player. Bill likes Malcolm so much that he even said a few nice words about him earlier this season:
“I think Malcolm is pretty humble overall,” said Patriots Coach Bill Belichick. “He’s confident, he works hard, he loves to compete. But at the same time he is humble about his success and the notoriety that he’s received, not just for one play, but also as he’s established himself as a solid NFL corner.”
Butler does like to occasionally reflect on how far he’s come in just a few years, not just in football but in life. But he never let’s anything distract from his next task at hand. In this case, his second Super Bowl:
“It does feel unreal to me, especially where I came from. Division II to the New England Patriots, last cornerback on the roster all season, go out in the biggest game of the year, on the biggest play of the game, make one of the biggest plays in NFL history. Then, come back the next year, accomplish a few things, and then, this year, back in the Super Bowl. It is amazing sometimes when I think about it. Sometimes it does feel unreal. But the dream world is over. We got a game to play.”
Those last couple sentences pretty much epitomize what it means to play for Bill Belichick. No time to reflect on past accomplishments when there’s another ring to be won.
Butler is currently the biggest bargain in the league as he’s still on his rookie contract. He’ll make $600,000 this year, and the Patriots would be wise to pay him the money he deserves this off-season. Players with this combination of character and skill don’t come around too often.
Follow Jack Bardsley on Twitter @BostonsBigFour
Photo Credit: Al Tielemans/AP Photo via Patriots.com