Interviewing NFL’s Butler was a surreal experience

Published 8:18 am Tuesday, July 21, 2015

As an undergrad at Alabama, my concentration within the major was sports news and information. It was a small group of ambitious 20-year-olds with dreams of being in radio, social media or having our own column. We learned from sports reporters from the local newspaper and columnists from critically acclaimed sports outlets. Afterward, we’d go for drinks, sometimes with our professors, and talk about life after graduation.

In my senior year I covered hockey, gymnastics, tennis, and men’s and women’s basketball. I sat in press conferences, on press row and ate among people getting paid to do what I was hoping to get a good grade on. The exposure from these events gave me a taste of being a sports reporter.

Friday I interviewed and shook hands with my first professional athlete in Malcolm Butler. The previous experiences I had in college were nothing compared to actually interviewing an NFL player.

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I was getting ready to head back to work to lay out the next day’s paper, when someone in Butler’s camp called me and said he was at Vicksburg High and wondered if I still wanted to do the interview. I completely forgot about it and just finished eating Chinese food with a lot of onions in the entrée — I absolutely love onions.

Although I did brush my teeth before leaving, I could tell the smells of shrimp, sesame chicken and onions were reeking through my pores.

When I arrived at VHS, other creative media people and Butler’s person of contact greeted me.

Luckily, Butler was an easy interview and was understanding of me running late. Because the interview slipped my mind, I had to be light on my feet and think of questions pertaining to his camp and not the play that won the Super Bowl. I couldn’t blow my first chance at an interview that could help my writing skills and resumé, so my speech and debate skills from high school really came in handy.

I remember watching his play live, shaking my head in disbelief over the events leading up to it and shouting, “Are you serious!?” I had no idea five months later I’d be talking to him.

Exactly 365 days ago I was working a job I hated and didn’t dream I’d be interviewing an NFL player. A lot really can change in a year.

Alex Swatson is a reporter. He can be reached at 601-636-4545, Ext. 178, or via email at