New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler will forever have one of the most famous plays in Super Bowl history for his last-second interception of Russell Wilson to win the game for the Patriots.
Butler wasn’t content to just live off of that play, however.
With the Patriots losing cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner in the offseason, Butler was suddenly thrown in the fire to become the team’s lead shut-down cornerback.
So far, Butler has answered the call. Though he only has one interception on the season, he ranks 30th among cornerbacks in ProFootball Focus’ grades, and the Patriots own the league’s 11th-best pass defence. The numbers aren’t mind-blowing, but they’re solid steps for an undrafted player who hardly played prior to the Super Bowl.
In order to take those next steps, Butler underwent rigorous training, as detailed by ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan. Butler worked with his trainer Johnny Jackson over the offseason, and some of the drills, frankly, sound like they’re straight out of “The Karate Kid.” MacMullan breaks it down:
[Jackson] fired passes to Butler while the cornerback’s eyes were closed to increase his awareness. He had Butler start with his back to the ball, then wheel around and jump as he launched a pass.
One of the drills required Butler to squat, balance on one foot and cradle two footballs while Jackson threw a third at him. It was devised to improve core strength, balance and judgment.
Jackson said of the latter drill: “So now Malcolm has a decision to make. Does he try to catch the ball with his body? Does he drop one ball to catch another? We wanted him thinking all the time.”
Butler also worked on one-handed catches, a la Odell Beckham Jr., and would have to sprint down long balls Jackson would toss, all to mimic in-game action.
Butler is still a young, growing player, but this is a good place to start. The Patriots have pitted him against some of the top receivers in the NFL, and at times he’s struggled, but it’s not for a lack of working.
We’ll see if Jackson has Butler painting fences and waxing cars this coming offseason.
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