Butler’s story never gets old

Published 9:13 am Tuesday, February 3, 2015

 Malcolm Butler came back to Vicksburg in November and slowly ran his fingers along the forest green lockers inside his former high school.

With a crowded gym of students waiting to hear him speak crammed just 20 feet away, Butler looked around and briefly stared off into space.

“As soon as I walked in the hallway,” he said of when the memories came flooding back that day. “Running around in the hallway, having fun with friends, hanging out, the games. It brings up a lot of good memories.”

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

That was two months ago, before the world knew his name and he was going to Disneyland and he actually witnessed Bill Belichick smile. It was a time when he was more popular with the people working at the Popeye’s on Clay Street than with the most diehard New England Patriot fans across the country.

But now you know who he is.

Malcolm Butler, an undrafted free agent who was kicked out of Hinds Community College, more used to asking what sauce you want than what coverage you’re in, made a play that will go down in Super Bowl history.

It almost didn’t end like this.

Butler was 36 inches away from heartbreak after Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse hauled in a perfectly played ball that bounced around more times than Butler during his journey to the Patriots. Kearse improbably caught it while visions of David Tyree and Mario Manningham danced in our heads, and Butler’s night went from great to grief.

But there’s a reason we write history with a pencil.

The former Vicksburg High star saw the Seahawks line up in a stack with three wide receivers and jumped a quick slant route for the game-sealing interception. A quick slant from one yard out. Usain Bolt would have trouble getting there in time, but the Butler did it, instantly etching his name in Super Bowl lore forever.

Malcolm Butler.

The guy who came within a whisker of washing out of football five years ago. The mild-mannered kid serving spicy chicken to get by. The star who said he realized he was going to make a big play in the biggest game of his life after a conversation with his Uber driver.

He got a Super Bowl ring and a Wikipedia page in the same night.

Before Sunday, Butler’s last interception in a game came in November of 2013 against Central State. There were 2,843 fans there to see it, and that’s probably a generous number.

Things sure have changed.

Butler walked out of the cold, gray locker room that November day and spoke to a packed gym of Vicksburg High students during the school’s last pep rally of the season. He was coming off a game against Peyton Manning and the Broncos, one in which he played 36 snaps in a Patriots win.

“You never can be satisfied,” Butler told the students. “You always want to improve to get better.”

Malcolm Butler took his own advice.

And the benefits of it taste even better than a three-piece from Popeye’s.

Cory Gunkel is a reporter. He can be reached at 601-636-4545, Ext. 178 or by email at cory.gunkel@vicksburgpost.com