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Malcolm Butler, Contributor - The Players' Tribune

Ever since I made that interception, life’s been a little different. I can’t roam around like I used to. Everywhere I go, people want pictures. They want me to sign something. I can’t even go to the grocery store without somebody wanting to talk to me. It’s a big change from the “regular” guy I used to be.

I guess it just comes with the territory. People are treating me like a celebrity, but I’m still the same guy who’s worked hard and taken advantage of his opportunities, and that’s all I’m trying to be. I’m definitely just enjoying the ride and being respectful and appreciative to the fans. Without them — and my coaches, teammates and others who’ve supported me along the way — none of this would have even been possible.

The first thing everyone asks me about is the play, so let’s get that out of the way now.

APTOPIX Super Bowl Football

It’s crazy because I wasn’t even supposed to be in on that play. The Seahawks were on the one-yard line, so we sent out goal-line personnel. We thought for sure they were gonna try to punch it in with Marshawn Lynch. But when we saw they had three wide receivers on the field, we had to adjust.

That’s when Coach Flores, our safeties coach, called for three corners, so we pulled a linebacker off the field and he yelled, “Malcolm, go!” So I went in.

When I got into position and looked at Ricardo Lockette lining up as the outside receiver, I knew that if his first step was outside, that meant he was going inside. I recognized the formation because I got beat on the same play from the five-yard line during Super Bowl week practice, and Coach Belichick wasn’t happy. He told me I had to be on that.

Lockette faked outside and came inside, just like I was expecting.

I had to sell out and go for the pick. If I played the receiver and just made the tackle after the catch, he’d already be in the end zone for a touchdown. It was only second down, so if I just knocked the pass down and broke it up, they’d still have two more chances to run Marshawn from the one-yard line. I didn’t have any choice but to take a chance and jump the route.

The rest is history. I just went for it, and after I caught it, everything got real slow. I couldn’t really feel anything. I was in shock. I couldn’t believe it.

I may have known that play was coming, but I definitely didn’t know what was coming next. Maybe the reporter literally chasing me down on the sideline after the game should have been an indication. I was never a guy reporters chased down, but that had changed. Everything had changed.

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That was the first of many firsts for me this offseason.

After the game, everything happened pretty fast. I already had a calendar full of media appearances first thing the next morning — SportsCenter, Good Morning America, The Today Show — I had like six of them back-to-back, and I had barely even slept. Immediately after that, I was on a jet with Julian Edelman to Disneyland. We had a parade and a big celebration at Disney, followed by more media appearances, and a couple of days later, we were back in Foxborough for the Patriots victory parade.

I wasn’t used to all that attention. It can definitely suck you in, and I was enjoying it. Who wouldn’t? Everybody in the world saw what I did, so it wasn’t just sports shows that wanted to talk to me. I was invited to radio stations and TV shows I’d never even heard of. Everybody seemed to want a piece of me.

It was nice to feel anonymous again, even if it was only for one night.

After that first week of media appearances and parades, I got what was probably the coolest opportunity so far. Just six days after making that play, I was presenting an award at the Grammys.

Julian Edelman and I presented the award for Best Rock Album, and we were on the red carpet and everything. I took pictures with Jamie Foxx, LL Cool J and Nicki Minaj. I met John Legend and Jay Z. It was crazy.

After being all over TV and being recognized everywhere I went since the game, nobody there really knew who I was. I was surrounded by stars, so I was the one who was nervous. I was the one asking for pictures and talking about how much I love what they do. The tables were definitely turned, and it was kind of a relief. It was nice to feel anonymous again, even if it was only for one night.

I even saw my owner, Robert Kraft, who was there with the CEO of CBS, and as the night went on, the stars started to figure out why I was there and who I was. And once they did, they were amazing. Everybody was so encouraging.

That was a great night.

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I don’t care where you go in life or what you accomplish, there’s no place like home. So even after presenting at the Grammys and all the honors and experiences I’ve had since making that play, the one memory I’ll cherish most is when my hometown of Vicksburg, Mississippi held Malcolm Butler Week.

Seeing myself in a Patriots jersey on the front of The Vicksburg Post — the same paper I used to see my high school stats in — was amazing. Getting the key to the city, seeing kids in the streets wearing my jersey and having people come up to me and tell me that I’m an inspiration to them? That was humbling.

Riding in a parade down the same streets where I grew up, thinking about all the struggles and where I came from and where I am now, is a feeling I can’t even begin to describe.

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There have been a lot of other things I’ve been able to do since making that interception. I’ve dropped the puck at a hockey game. I’ve had dozens of autograph signings where hundreds of people showed up. We even had Malcolm Butler Day at West Alabama, where I played college ball.

I’m enjoying every minute of it, but being in the spotlight does take a toll on you. I don’t know how some people do it. The attention can get to you sometimes, even though it’s all love and support. It’s all so new to me. I’m just learning as I go.

Being in the spotlight does take a toll on you. I don’t know how some people do it.

But at the end of the day, it comes with the territory.

I think that’s why it’s so hard to repeat. After you win, you spend a part of the offseason celebrating and enjoying it. And every minute you’re out celebrating, there are 31 other teams getting that extra work in, and they’re all coming after you.

That’s what separates great franchises from great teams. Yeah, we won the Super Bowl, but we’re still hungry. I’m still hungry. I’m working every day to get better and contribute to this team, and I know everyone in the Patriots organization is doing the same thing.

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It’s only been a couple of months since I made that play, and the hype has finally slowed down, which has given me a lot more time to put it into perspective.

I don’t want that play to define me. I don’t want to be a guy who had one great moment then disappeared. Getting to the NFL is hard, but staying there is even harder. There’s always someone out there gunning for your job. Last season, I was that guy trying to take someone’s job. Now, because the hard work I’ve put in — and yeah, because of that interception — I have a chance to lock down my spot on the roster. And when I do, I’m guarding it with my life.

Sooner or later I’m gonna have to take a trip somewhere and just get some “me” time, but working and training for next season never stops. Not for Super Bowl media tours and not for vacations. We lost two of the best cornerbacks in the game in Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner this offseason, and as much as I hate to lose those guys, I’m confident in the players we have in our secondary, and I’m gonna do everything I can to contribute and be one of the guys that fills that void.

That’s the thing about the NFL: It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, you just gotta be ready when your number is called, cause you never know when it’s gonna be your turn to make a big play.

Trust me, I know.

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