Four years ago Patriots rookie defensive back Malcolm Butler was working in a fried chicken restaurant. On Sunday he became a Super Bowl legend.
When Butler, 24, was working at a Popeyes, an NFL career was so remote to him, it was probably not even on the radar.
Butler signed with New England as an un-drafted free agent back on May 19 of last year out of the University of Western Alabama and won a roster spot during the team's training camp."Malcolm was part of what we like to call 'the few, the proud, the free,' that did a great job in our rookie minicamp," coach Bill Belichick told Sports Illustrated after Sunday's win. "We kind of created a roster spot for him by juggling some other guys around, and so we signed him. That's a pretty big jump from West Alabama to the NFL."
Butler picked off a Russell Wilson pass on the goal-line to save the game and seal the win for the Patriots. Now he's off to Disney World with receiver Julian Edelman. Butler had deflected a pass into the air two plays earlier that miraculously landed onto the stomach of Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse that temporarily sustained the potentially game-winning Seattle drive.
Butler got his start in football at Vicksburg High School in Mississippi where he only played his freshman and senior seasons and was not a top-flight recruit. He started his collegiate career at Hinds Community College in Mississippi, but was kicked off the team five games into his first season. The Providence Journal reported that Butler would not give a reason for his dismissal.
He then took a job at a local Popeyes for the rest of the school year and enrolled in classes at nearby Alcorn State University. At that point in time Butler realized something was missing from his life and he longed to play football again.
“That just made me realize how bad I wanted it and how bad I really needed it,” Butler told the Providence Journal back in August. “You don’t know how good it is until it’s gone.”
He was invited back to Hinds that fall and played well enough to transfer to Division II Western Alabama a year later. For two years he was considered by many coaches to be one of the best cornerbacks in the Gulf Coast Conference. One day after Butler's second season, coach Will Hall received a call from New England's special teams coach Joe Judge – they were interested in Butler.
"He never walks into an arena where he doesn’t feel like he belongs there. But at the same time, he’s pretty humble." Hall told the Providence Journal We thought he had a good shot. We really did.”
But Butler wasn't the only player in Sunday's game to take an unlikely route to the Super Bowl. Some in the sports world were also buzzing about the emergence of Seahawks receiver Chris Matthews, who caught four passes in the game for 109 yards
Matthews, 25, was not on the team two months ago and was promoted to the active roster in December, according to ABC. His last NFL shot came in 2011 when the Cleveland Browns cut him. Matthews then took his game to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League for a brief stint, and had taken a job as a security guard at a Footlocker.
According to ABC, Matthews had been invited to workout for the Seahawks last year and was called at work by someone from the team, but Matthews told them he could not fly to Seattle until his shift ended.