SUPER Bowl week has been very different this time around for Malcolm Butler. The 26-year-old cornerback, an undrafted rookie, was a glorified bit part player in the New England Patriots side which took on the Seattle Seahawks in Glendale, Arizona for SuperBowl XLIX in 2015.
That all changed when Seattle, having marched down to the one yard line with 26 seconds left, looked in his direction as they chased the touchdown which would surely have put the game on ice. With Marshawn 'Beast Mode' Lynch in the line-up, and the game on the line, surely a running play up the gut was the order of the day?
Instead, offensive co-ordinator Darrell Bevell drew up a quick slant from quarterback Russell Wilson to wide receiver Ricardo Lockette. Butler, only in on the play as the third cornerback as the Patriots were using an unusual defensive formation, embraced his big moment by beating Lockette to the ball and clung on for a remarkable interception as the Patriots - Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and all - held on for a 28-24 win. Its closest footballing equivalent was Sir Alex Ferguson's two Champions League wins being determined by Carsten Jancker missing a sitter in Barcelona in '99 and John Terry falling on his backside in Moscow in 2008.
Loading article content
Anyway, Butler's life will never be the same - and certainly not this week as he returns to Gridiron's glamour match, this time Super Bowl LI in Houston, having ascended up the depth chart to No 1 cornerback, a role which will see him attempt to shackle Atlanta's main danger man Julio Jones tonight. Another man who also won't forget it is Dan Quinn, the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, who had a coaching role with Seattle at the time.
The moral of the story is that, while the likes of Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Jones and Julian Edelman may grab the limelight, so often the Super Bowl heroes are the less-heralded ones. Butler admitted he didn't even get asked to do a single TV interview last time around. "Actually I didn't," he said. "I was out there sitting at one of those tables. Only one guy was talking to me."
Called upon by Bill Belichick as part of a package called 'O-line-three-corner', even Butler was expecting a running play at first. "I was expecting run but I told myself 'I'm going to read the wide receiver'," said Butler. "I really can't remember that part [what Tom Brady told him], I won't sit here and just give you a story. But it was a great moment, all I can remember is my team-mates jumping on top of me. Some of them were crying so that made me shed a couple tears. That's all I remember.
"Most definitely, the hero is going to be a player that's not going to expect to play. He's going to get his opportunity to go out there and I'm a valuable lesson to just be ready when your name is called."