Vicksburg’s Butler set for third Super Bowl appearance in 4 years

Published 10:06 pm Saturday, February 3, 2018

The good fortune that has smiled on Malcolm Butler during his brief NFL career is never lost on him.

It has been three years since his game-clinching interception in Super Bowl XLIX made the New England Patriots cornerback an NFL star. He and the Patriots won another championship last season, and can collect a third Sunday when they face the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII.

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While some of his peers around the league toil for years to even sniff the playoffs, Butler joined a dynastic team where anything less than a Super Bowl appearance is a disappointment. He’s been picked for a Pro Bowl, started 47 of the past 48 games, and could be a highly coveted free agent this offseason.

It’s been a remarkable run, and Butler said he never stops appreciating the ride that began four years ago when he signed with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent from West Alabama.

“I’ve been in the league four years and I’m going to my third Super Bowl. I don’t know what else to expect. I’m a spoiled little brat,” Butler said with a laugh. “Every year I’ve played in the AFC championship game. I’ve been blessed. I got sent to the right organization. I’m growing up as a man, getting better as a person and becoming more responsible. This team has more to offer than just football.”

Sunday’s Super Bowl might be Butler’s last game with the Patriots. He played this season on a one-year tender offer worth $3.91 million and is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season. The Patriots felt out trade offers for him last summer, and might allow him to leave rather than sign him to a massive new contract.

“I’m really focused on the game, and whatever happens is going to happen anyway,” he said. “If I like it or don’t like it, whatever happens is going to happen. That’s just life. I don’t know what the future holds, but it holds something and I just hope it’s good.”

The future and the contract situation were far from Butler’s mind this week, when he and the Patriots have a chance to make history. The Patriots can join their 2001-04 predecessors and the 1992-95 Dallas Cowboys as the only teams to win three Super Bowls in four seasons.

Butler has been an integral part of it, ever since his goal line interception in the final minute against Seattle sealed the Patriots’ 28-24 victory in Super Bowl XLIX.

Then a rookie backup, Butler played sparingly that season and not at all in the first half of the Super Bowl. He said only one reporter interviewed him at media day that year. This time, he was forced to skip media day because of the flu and his absence was a story.

“It’s real different now. At media day in my first Super Bowl I had no one talking to me. One guy was talking to me. He was from Puerto Rico or Mexico,” Butler said. “Now it’s different. A lot of people want to talk. I’m under the microscope whether I’m in Vicksburg or Foxborough. I’ve kind of built my way up.”

Butler’s in-game Super Bowl experiences have also varied widely. Against Seattle, a remarkable second-half performance led many to consider him a snubbed MVP candidate. Besides his interception, he had three tackles and broke up several passes to help the Patriots rally from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter.

Last season, in Super Bowl LI against Atlanta, he started but only had two tackles and was burned for a long gain early in the game. Later on, he drew a pass interference penalty that set up an Atlanta touchdown as the Falcons built a 28-3 lead.

While not thrilled with that performance, Butler said the second-half comeback that resulted in a 34-28 overtime victory and another Patriots championship allowed him to live with it.

“It wasn’t as bad as people made it. People tried to make it bad. I guess I got famous for one play and people don’t like that,” Butler said. “I won my second Super Bowl and play for the greatest team. People don’t like the Patriots because we win the Super Bowl. People don’t like winners. I had an OK game, but my standards are way higher than that. I can’t complain. I got another ring and we got the win. You have to put yourself to the side sometimes.”

Now, with his third Super Bowl on the horizon, Butler is looking for a middle ground — another victory and a solid individual performance. Whatever happens, though, he said he’ll take a moment to appreciate the moment and the journey to it.

“It can be Super Bowl Sunday or just a regular game. I run out of the tunnel and sometimes it feels surreal,” Butler said. “I come from a small town, went to junior college, had a couple of struggles, had to rebound, and I think about how blessed I am. How many people want to be in the position I’m in. It’s crazy. I’m truly blessed and I appreciate every moment. It doesn’t last long, so you have to cherish it while you can.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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