Butler makes impact for TigersFormer Vicksburg high star helps lift West Alabama to new heights

Published 11:43 am Monday, December 10, 2012

University of West Alabama and former Vicksburg High cornerback Malcolm Butler has earned plenty of honors in his football career. But one thing was missing, a championship ring.

This season, he added to his list of honors, being named to the All-Gulf South Conference team. In 2011, he was part of the All-MACJC second team after his sophomore season at Hinds Community College.

Now, he’s got a championship ring as he helped lift West Alabama to the Gulf South Conference title.

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“It’s very special to me to finally get a championship ring,” Butler said. “I’m pretty glad to have it.”

His ascension wasn’t surprising to those who knew him best.

Butler was a solid cornerback and a threat to go to the house any time he had the football in his hands in high school, tallying 61 tackles in his final season at Vicksburg in 2008

His most memorable moment was in 2008 against South Panola, when he took an end-around 45 yards, zigging and zagging his way through the Tigers’ defense.

“There was only one man who could’ve made that play and it was Malcolm Butler,” said former Vicksburg High coach Alonzo Stevens. “They had no answer for him. Malcolm had D-I written all over him. He had the speed, fantastic speed. He’s a big-play guy. He can catch it, he can run it and you’re really never open on him, because like Deion Sanders, he’s got that closing speed. He’s got a nose for the football and trust me, that’s something you can’t coach.”

He played at Hinds in 2009 as a freshman, recording 22 tackles in five games. There his career got sidetracked and he spent a year out of football trying to get his life straightened out.

“He got in the wrong crowd and got in a bit of trouble,” Stevens said. “I’d see him when he was working at Popeye’s and I’d always tell him to never give up. His potential is just off the charts.”

Butler took his coach’s advice to heart and returned to the field. After sitting out the 2010 season, he returned to Hinds in 2011 with a vengeance, with three interceptions and 12 pass breakups.

At West Alabama, coached by Will Hall, an Amory native and the son of Madison Central High coach Bobby Hall, Butler’s upward trajectory continued. He appeared in 12 of the Tigers’ 13 games, recording 44 tackles and picking off five passes.

The Gulf South Conference represents a big change from the junior college ranks. It’s a challenge Butler enjoys. As the boundary cornerback, Butler is usually paired against the other team’s top outside receiver and deep threat.

“In junior college, most of the teams are running the ball,” Butler said. “But in the Gulf South, they’re throwing it a whole lot more. Everyone’s using three or four receivers. It’s fun for us (defensive backs), but not so much for the linebackers.”

His best performance was in a 24-20 win over West Georgia on Sept. 29, when he had a career-high three interceptions, two of which came in the third quarter. His first interception came two plays after the Wolves had stopped the Tigers on fourth down and set up a tying field goal. The second and third picks stopped promising West Georgia drives at midfield. It was the fourth time in West Alabama history that feat had been accomplished.

“My mother was there for that one,” Butler said. “She came to several of our games and she was definitely good luck.”

He’s also proved a weapon in the kickoff return game. Against North Alabama on Nov. 8, with the game tied at 14 all, Butler took back the ensuing kickoff 100 yards to paydirt, his longest of the season.

The Tigers lost in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs to Valdosta State 49-21, but Butler is still pleased with the season and is ready for bigger and better things next season.

“We definitely want to do more next year,” Butler said. “We’re going to be back next year and take it step by step.”