New England Patriots rookie defensive back Malcolm Butler could never again appear in another NFL game and his name would still have a prominent place in pro football history.
Butler is the co-star of an instantly iconic moment, sealing the Patriots’ Super Bowl XLIX defeat of the Seattle Seahawks with a goal-line interception of Russell Wilson.
In a Super Bowl that was built up with no shortage of talk about overlooked stars, it’s apropos Butler stole the spotlight: in part because of just how unlikely it was the road he traversed would lead to Glendale.
Butler’s big play coming on the week that did is just as fitting. Wednesday is national signing day for college football, and thousands of potential future Malcolm Butlers will blaze trails without fanfare.
Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t explicitly defend the value of recruiting rankings. Five-star recruits are exponentially more likely to make it to the NFL than their prep counterparts, and the status quo persists on down the line to 4-stars, 3-stars and so forth — and there are no shortage of recruiting writers who will happily bang this fact over the head of anyone seemingly dismissing their cottage industry.
But as much as he’s now a prominent part of NFL history, Malcolm Butler is a reminder that the journey is far from over for the underdogs.
Butler has an especially unique story in that he had to work his way back to his junior college team, as detailed in this Providence Journal feature from August.
However, he’s relatable to the vast majority of football prospects who won’t have ESPNU’s cameras at their high schools for national signing day.
The cameras are no likelier to follow the exploits of many of these prospects when they become college players in the FCS, Div. II, Div. III, NAIA or JUCO ranks. But that doesn’t mean their highlights won’t be coveted some time in the future.
West Alabama was kind enough to share Butler’s after the Super Bowl.
— UWA Athletics (@UWAAthletics) February 2, 2015
West Alabama has a new clip to add to Butler’s reel. Meanwhile, legions of unheralded recruits have a new example proving that humble beginnings do not preclude one from history-making heroics.