Malcolm Butler should always be remembered as Patriots legend
|USA TODAY Sports|
It was just around 10:00 PM on Feb. 1, 2015 when I thought the Patriots' quest for a fourth Super Bowl would be shot down in flames like the previous two attempts.
At the time, it would have been tough to argue with any Pats fan who was doubting it, as the end of Super Bowl XLIX was playing out exactly like the two Giants Super Bowls - New England had the lead late, some insane catch happens, defense can't stop the offense on the final drive of the game, etc.
But what happened next was something I had begged for despite being convinced I wasn't going to get it - a turnover.
It wasn't just any turnover. It was the greatest play (or dumbest play call depending on how you look at it) in the history of the Super Bowl. Malcolm Butler, a seldom-used cornerback at the time, jumped a pick route and intercepted Russell Wilson at the goal line to win one of the best Super Bowls of all time.
I've never screamed louder in my life.
Butler's story was so fun to hear about and it made many want to root harder for him. He had been in and out of college football for a couple years, working at a Popeye's in between. He ends up at West Alabama and went undrafted until the Patriots picked him up in the summer of 2014.
Three years later, so much has changed. Butler (and Dion Lewis) is now a member of the Tennessee Titans. There is a lot that lead up to this, but the cherry on top was that Butler did not play a single defensive snap in New England's Super Bowl LII loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. When TV cameras showed Butler crying during the National Anthem, we all wondered why. As the game went on, it became increasingly obvious why he was crying.
He wasn't going to play and the Patriots did him dirty.
Despite anything Butler has said about his contract over the past couple of years or about the Patriots giving up on him post Super Bowl LII, Butler should always be remembered as a Patriots legend. His Super Bowl interception is, and may forever be, the most iconic play in Patriots history. Nobody can ever take that away from him.
The next season, Butler was out to prove he wasn't a flash in the pan. While he only had two interceptions, he batted down 15 passes and was often tasked with shutting down the opposition's No. 1 receiver.
Who could forget how he effectively shut down Odell Beckham Jr. in a Patriots win over the Giants? He limited DeSean Jackson to one catch for 10 yards in a game against the Redskins. The list goes on and on. He was named to the Pro Bowl and a first-team All-Pro by Pro Football Focus.
In 2016, he had a career-high four interceptions and seemed to be building off of his solid 2015 campaign. He was not named to the Pro Bowl but was named a second-team All Pro by the Associated Press.
Any fan who harbors any ill will towards Butler needs to take a long look in the mirror and realize that A) loyalty, in Butler's case, certainly does not exist and B) should find another team to root for. If he is not remembered as anything other than a legend, there is something seriously wrong.
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