Last night’s big game didn’t come down to familiar names like Tom Brady or Marshawn Lynch. Instead, some unknown players showed up to shock the hell out of Super Bowl XLIX viewers.
Seahawks wide receiver Chris Matthews dominated his team’s stats, and yet, most people were still confusing him for the Hardball MSNBC host. Matthews had the first two catches of his career in the first half of Sunday’s game – including one for a touchdown – leading the Seahawks offense with 109 yards, and helping the Hawks stage a huge comeback during the second half.
Meanwhile, Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler picked off Russell Wilson at the Pats’ 1-yard line, snagging his team the 28-24 win with just 20 seconds remaining.
And yet, the fact that both of these guys were even in the NFL is surprising, never mind that they became two huge factors in the league’s biggest competition. Matthews only appeared in three games this year after being signed off the practice squad in December. He began his career in the CFL, where he played for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and before that, he worked at a Foot Locker and as a security guard.
According to Sports Illustrated:
Matthews spent a year out of the game, latched on with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for two years, and spent his offseason working two jobs: one at Foot Locker, the other as a security guard. One day, around this time last year, his phone rings. It’s a Seahawks official, and they want Matthews to come to a tryout. Tonight. Matthews looks at watch, pauses, and says, “I don’t get off of work until 9 p.m. I don’t know if I’ll make it.”
A few minutes later, Matthews’ agent calls. “What are you thinking! Get yourself home, pack up and go. Are you out of your mind?!”
The rest is history. In fact, if the Seahawks solidified the win, Matthews very well could have been Super Bowl MVP.
Meanwhile, Malcolm Butler got a late start in football while growing up in Mississippi. After playing five games at Hinds Community College during his 2009 freshman season, Butler was kicked out of school for an unknown reason, and began working at Popeye’s fast food restaurant to make ends meet.
The Providence Journal reports:
It was that next year, in 2010, that he calls “life-changing.” He got a part-time job at Popeyes and worked there for most the year before taking summer classes at Alcorn State University to get back on track. For the first time in his life, he missed football.
“That just made me realize how bad I wanted it and how bad I really needed it,” Butler said. “You don’t know how good it is until it’s gone.”
After a few stints back at college and playing for under the radar teams, Butler signed to the Patriots last year as an undrafted free agent.
Of his crucial interception after coach Pete Carroll’s botched pass play, the 24-year-old was nearly speechless.
“I believe in God, I’m truly blessed, and just prayed all this week. I pray in other times too,” Butler said. “I just had to wake up this morning and really just be like ‘Was this real? Is this real?”
“It was the perfect play at the perfect time,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said Monday morning.
Working dead-end jobs just a few years ago, neither Matthews nor Butler were touted as the best. They didn’t have the most publicity, and they certainly don’t make the most money, but after last night’s game, it’s clear they’ve solidified a place for themselves in the Super Bowl hall of fame.