Butler’s football camp becomes a beloved Vicksburg football tradition

Published 4:24 pm Saturday, July 22, 2023

For the ninth year in a row, Vicksburg’s most famous football player returned to his old stomping grounds to help kick off another season.

Malcolm Butler, a Vicksburg native who won two Super Bowls during a seven-year NFL career, hosted his annual football camp Saturday at Vicksburg High’s Memorial Stadium. Nearly 400 children ranging in age from elementary to high school attended for a morning full of fun that has turned into a tradition for a generation of young players.

“It feels good, and it makes me feel real good when I see kids from the first camp to the ninth camp and they were this tall and they’re up there now,” Butler said. “It’s amazing. It’s a big thing for the city.”

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Vicksburg High senior defensive end Tyler Carter, who has committed to Mississippi State, is one of the players who has attended nearly every edition of Butler’s camp. Like Butler, he said it’s remarkable to see the same faces check in year after year.

“It’s really nice to see all the little kids you’ve seen when you were younger, seeing them grow up and do more things physically and athletically,” Carter said.

MORE COVERAGE: Malcolm Butler Football Camp photo gallery

The campers ran through about three hours of drills led by Vicksburg High coaches and college players from Alcorn State and Jackson State. Some were competitive, like the one-on-one passing drills toward the end, but for the most part it was a laid-back atmosphere focused on making memories and having a good time.

“This camp is not about making it to the NFL. It’s about being a young man or young lady when you grow up. It just means a lot,” Butler said. “Just learn how to compete on and off the field no matter what, and find something to do to be constructive and do right.”

Butler played cornerback for seven seasons in the NFL, with the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans. He was a member of the Patriots’ Super Bowl championship teams in 2014 and 2016, and had 17 career interceptions.

He is best known for his game-clinching interception in New England’s Super Bowl XLIX victory over Seattle, which is often regarded as one of the most famous plays in NFL history.

“It’s crazy when ESPN or Sports Center posts something like the greatest plays in sports history and I’m up there. It makes me feel real good,” he said, before adding with a laugh, “They’re most definitely going to know me for the one play. I’ve got 20 interceptions, but they just can’t get over that one.”

Butler last played in the NFL in 2020 with the Titans. He was released in a salary cap move the following offseason. He signed as a free agent with the Arizona Cardinals in 2021, but left the team for personal reasons near the end of training camp and sat out the season.

Butler returned to New England last summer, but broke his hip in a preseason game and was released again on an injury settlement.

Although he hasn’t played an NFL game in three years and is not currently on a roster as training camps start to open this week, Butler said he also is not officially retired.

“Not officially. I’ve still got some time to think about it,” he said. “I’ve still got some time to train and stuff like that. I’m not sure right now, but we’ll find out soon.”

No matter what the future holds, Butler is proud of what he’s accomplished in his career. He only played one year of football at Vicksburg High, then was kicked off the team at Hinds Community College for a disciplinary matter.

He got a second chance at Hinds and ran with it. Butler parlayed that into an outstanding career at Division II West Alabama — he is in the Gulf South Conference Hall of Fame — and another opportunity with the Patriots as a rookie free agent.

Butler made the Patriots’ roster in 2014, with his famous Super Bowl interception happening at the end of that season. He was a Pro Bowler in 2015 and a second-team All-Pro in 2016 when the Patriots beat Atlanta in Super Bowl LI. He also helped New England reach a third Super Bowl in the 2017 season.

“I’m so blessed. I beat the odds. Played one year of high school football, got sidetracked and had to start over, and still made it,” he said. “I feel pretty good. But I’m just not the guy who’s going to be satisfied. I want more. I’m truly blessed, but I still want more and I’m going to do more on and off the field.”

As for what that is, Butler wasn’t sure. He said he’s enjoying his semi-retirement at the moment and dabbling in several businesses and other ventures.

The football camp was the first of two events he’s participating in in his hometown. On Sunday, July 30, he’ll be part of the 7th annual Back to School Drive Celebrity Basketball Game at Vicksburg High. Outdoor events begin at 11:30 a.m. and doors open at 1:30 p.m.

Once his football career is officially over, Butler said he might return to the game in another capacity.

“Just training and learning more football. I might coach in a year or two,” he said. “Just chilling and relaxing right now. Taking my time and being a father and enjoying my fruits.”

And, of course, he’ll keep bringing his football camp to the city — at least for one more year.

“I’m going to get 10. Then it depends on how things go,” he said with a laugh. “It’s so fun. I know they’re having a great time, too. I love kids. It makes my soul glow when these kids come out here and have fun doing something they love.”

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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