New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler is a proud Vicksburg native and both of his high school and college coaches could write books about the type of athlete Butler is, but his success did not come without a second chance.
"If he messed up, he owned up," said former Vicksburg high school head football coach Alonzo Stevens. "Never tried to blame it on anybody. Never tried to put it on anybody."
"I saw where he came from and I saw the struggles," said former Hinds Community College head football coach Gene Murphy. "I also saw someone that never gave up on himself."
Both coaches knew Butler was more than an average football player.
"Malcolm was a great athlete. Hard working," Stevens said. "He had a 'no quit' attitude. Always believed in himself."
Butler's road to NFL star has some interesting layers.
He struggled in the classroom and was not able to get the grades he needed to play at the Division I level. He graduated from Vicksburg High School in 2009 and landed at Hinds Community College on a scholarship.
He started for the Eagles and shined as a freshman, recording 22 tackles and one interception, but after the fifth game of his first season, Butler was dismissed from the football program for violating team rules.
Butler spent an entire season away from football, working at the local Popeyes to make ends meet.
He enrolled in classes at Alcorn State University to continue his education, but did not play football for the Braves.
It was during his time frying chicken that Butler decided he wanted to apologize to Coach Murphy.
Stevens said he visited Butler at Popeyes often and during one of those visits, Butler told Stevens he planned on apologizing to Murphy.
"You're growing up now," Stevens told Butler.
And with that apology, Murphy gave him a second chance.
"For anyone that has spent any amount of time around Malcolm Butler, they would know that he's worthy of a second chance," Murphy said.
Butler took the new opportunity with grace and ran with it. As a sophomore, he recorded 43 tackles, three interceptions, and 12 broken-up passes.
He eventually made his way to Division II in 2012, playing at West Alabama, where he started every game that fall for the Tigers.
The following year, Butler raked in 45 tackles, two interceptions, one blocked field goal and averaged 27.9 yards on kickoff returns.
Butler became an undrafted free agent in 2014 and on May 19, 2014, Butler signed with the New England Patriots.
"I can remember very clearly what Tom Brady said about Malcolm in preseason camp," Murphy said with a smile on his face. "He kept wondering who the guy was that was always going 100 percent out there in practice."
That guy was Malcolm Butler.
In his rookie season with the Patriots, Butler made NFL history with an incredible game-ending interception in Super Bowl XLIX.
He intercepted Russell Wilson's pass at the goal line with 20 seconds left in the game, preventing a go-ahead touchdown from the Seattle Seahawks.
New England won that Super Bowl, 28-24.
Butler was also part of the Patriots' Super Bowl LI 34-28 overtime victory against the Atlanta Falcons.
The Vicksburg native is now seeking his third Super Bowl ring in just four seasons.
"This is a testimony of a young man that fought through a lot of obstacles," Murphy said. "The state of Mississippi is very proud of him."
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