By Larry Fine
HOUSTON (Reuters) - Malcolm Butler saved the day for the Patriots in the Super Bowl two years ago as an unheralded rookie, and hopes his next big moment comes in Sunday's Super Bowl against the Atlanta Falcons.
Butler's perfectly timed, do-or-die interception at the goal line on the Seattle Seahawks' bid to score from the one with 20 seconds left preserved a 28-24 win for New England's fourth Super Bowl title.
"Not much you can do to top that. At least I don't think I can. I think that's the biggest moment I'm ever going to have in my life in my career," Butler told Reuters. "The next-best moment is yet to happen. It will happen soon."
Butler was signed by New England as an undrafted free agent out of West Alabama in 2014 as the Patriots saw some potential.
"I went from a fifth-string defensive back to go in and make a couple of plays and make the best play in Super Bowl history," he said.
Butler worked hard to make sure he would not be a one-hit wonder, and built on his Super Bowl highlight play to become a fixture at cornerback and a Pro Bowl selection.
"I got an opportunity to play and be a starter. I continue to try and build. This year I've got a role in the Super Bowl. I'm a starter. A lot changed."
Butler said he has grown as a player. "Way better, way better. I made a huge jump," he said.
"That year, I did not know what was going on. Everything was going fast. I was just a rookie, and I did not know what to expect. This year, it is the complete opposite. I have a role in the game."
Butler's will likely be shadowing the Falcons' All Pro wide receiver Julio Jones, a critical and challenging assignment that suggests paying close attention to the cornerback's predictions.
In 2012, he tweeted that he wanted to match up against Jones, then already a Pro Bowl receiver in his second season for Atlanta.
"I was just a young kid in college trying to work hard and trying to achieve my dream, and it came true," said Butler.
"I had a vision, and all you have to do is just believe in yourself and work hard. Dreams come true, just like that tweet did."
(Editing by Andrew Both)