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Glendale, Ariz. — For much of Super Bowl XLIX, it appeared an unknown player would be the star.

And even though the Seahawks and rookie wide receiver Chris Matthews lost the game, that turned out to be the case as undrafted Patriots rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler shone in the brightest moment.

With the Seahawks one yard from taking a lead, Butler intercepted Russell Wilson's pass to give the Patriots the ball with 20 seconds left, securing a 28-24 victory and the franchise's fourth Super Bowl title.

New England quarterback Tom Brady was a deserving MVP (four touchdowns), but Butler had the biggest play with the defense pushed to the brink. And Brady showed his support of Butler by reportedly giving him the Chevrolet Colorado he won as the MVP.

The nail-biting Super Bowl couldn't have had a more fitting signature play, even though plenty of people will wonder why the Seahawks passed from the 1-yard line on second down instead of handing the ball to power back Marshawn Lynch.

Butler, from Division II West Alabama, indicated he didn't have to guess to make his mark. With two receivers bunched to the right of the offense, the backup nickel cornerback who played 11 games during the season expected a pick play to free receiver Ricardo Lockette.

Butler gave just enough cushion to bait the throw from Wilson. But as the quarterback released the ball, Butler exploded toward Lockette and stepped in front just in time to make the interception.

"I've worked so hard in practice, and I just wanted to play so bad and help my team out," Butler said. "I got out there and did exactly what I needed to do to help my team win."

Butler entered the game because Kyle Arrington struggled earlier, particularly against Matthews.

"That is just one of those things that is so fitting for him just because of how he worked himself into playing time," Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. "That is exactly what you see from him, making plays on Tom Brady in practice, being around the ball.

"That is why his nickname is Scrap because he's always scrapping for the ball."

And much as it took a team effort for the Patriots to win, Butler's play will be the lasting image of Super Bowl XLIX.

"You never know when that situation' going to come up, and Malcolm was ready," Patriots safety Patrick Chung said. "He was ready from the jump, so he just went down in history. Everybody has to thank that guy right there."

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/jkatzenstein

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