Super starters show Signing Day isn’t always a stairway to heaven


Malcolm Butler: From Division II to Super hero. (Kathy Willens/AP Photo)

HOUSTON — Because nothing goes together like the Super Bowl and Signing Day, am I right?

It was fascinating listening to Bill Belichick expound — and when he’s asked a question he likes, mostly about the history of football and scouting (his dad was an assistant coach at Navy and would let his son tag along when he scouted other teams), he actually does expound — about cornerback Malcolm Butler, who saved the last New England Super Bowl and will start against the Falcons on Sunday.

Butler is from Vicksburg, Miss. He went to Hinds Community and was kicked off the team. He took classes at Alcorn State but landed back at Hinds. After JUCO, he moved to Division II West Alabama. A highlight of his collegiate career was a three-interception game against West Georgia. He went undrafted by NFL teams.

Belichick was asked Tuesday how he found Butler. Off he went.

“Just digging through some guys at the end of the (2014) draft. When the draft was over, there were a number of players that were not signed that we still were interested in. We invited Malcolm up for rookie mini-camp. We had probably 10 to 15 players like that, players that finished their college careers but were not signed by a team. They were essentially there for a tryout, an extended tryout during that period. They were there along with our draft choices and players that we had signed during that draft. We also had a couple of veteran-type players that weren’t with a team that fell under a certain category.”

Then: “I’d say once we saw Malcolm on the field after the first workout, it was pretty obvious that we felt like this was the type of kid that we want to work with. He was raw, technique-wise and all of that. He had a good training camp and got a little bit of playing time during the year. We saw him firsthand when we actually saw him in our building in that rookie mini-camp three years ago.”

At the end of the 2014 season, Butler — then the Patriots’ nickel back — cut in front of Ricardo Lockette to stave off Seattle’s final thrust and make Belichick a four-time Super Bowl winner as head coach. He’s now an every-down NFL cornerback.

And where, you’re asking, was Malcolm Butler ranked on Signing Day 2009? According to Jon Solomon of CBS Sports, nowhere.

Every year we get one of those where-were-the-Super-Bowl-players-coming-out-of-high-school breakdowns, and Solomon’s is revealing. Between the Falcons and Patriots’ starting lineups, only three players were 5-star recruits — Julio Jones, duh, and Pats tight end Marcellus Bennett (Texas A&M) and defensive tackle Malcolm Brown (Texas).

Matt Ryan was a 3-star prospect, Alex Mack a 2-star. Tom Brady, Solomon notes, predated star ratings and the major recruiting services but was the No. 6 pro-style quarterback according to Tom Lemming.

The moral of our story is … well, you know it as well as I do. Signing Day is a very important day for college football programs, but then you fast-forward to prospects as pros and, come the Super Bowl, you’ll see a 5-star receiver from mighty Alabama aligned against a no-star defender who not long ago was a batter cook at Popeyes. Funny old world, isn’t it?

Further Falcons:

Super question: What will Belichick try to take from the Falcons?

Shanahan loses backpack with game plan, gets it back.

Opening Night: Belichick denies knowledge of underwear bearing his name.

The Falcons’ ultimate challenge — the dark lord Belichick.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn: The winner who went to dinner.

Falcons arrive, are mistaken (by my Uber driver) for a funeral.

Hope for the Falcons: The Patriots’ defense isn’t really No. 1.

Football Outsiders: ‘Nightmare’ scenario sees Falcons blown out.

The Falcons are headed to the game that defies simulation.

A revealing take on Matt Ryan from someone who knows him well.

Memo to Boston: I won’t apologize for Atlanta or the Falcons.

The Falcons are underdogs, but they absolutely can win.

Facing the hated Patriots, the Falcons are now America’s Team.

A Super day: Atlanta domination, Atlanta validation.

The matchup: These Falcons against Atlanta history.

The Falcons have been here before; most of these Falcons haven’t.

How the soaring Falcons rebuilt on the fly.

ESPN: The 49ers will offer Kyle Shanahan their head coaching job.

In Aaron Rodgers, the Falcons will be facing the NFL’s Michael Jordan.

(Gulp) Here comes Aaron Rodgers. But the Falcons will still win.

If I’m the Falcons, I’m rooting for Dallas. (Yes, Dallas.)

The ascendant Falcons make short work of Seattle.

Don’t fret over these Falcons: They’re too good to flop.

Reviewing October’s epic Falcons-Seahawks game.

Reader Comments 0


"I'm known as a recruiter. Well you've got to have chicken to make chicken salad."  Coach Bryant

dawg fan
dawg fan

Bradley, any word on when Chip Towers will be getting fired? His bias and disdain for Kirby Smart could not be more obvious and is very unbecoming of a supposed journalist.


@dawg fan Never happen. We have the same issue with Bradley and Schultz - 98% of the time. I'd almost swear they were still sitting in a Journalism class over at UGA  writing their crap while they try to learn how to become a journalist. It's one thing to evaluate a coach, team or program HONESTLY and then move on - but neither of these guys do. Their reporting is based on a personal bias against the way Georgia Tech goes about their business (and that includes most all things Tech) and they think maybe eventually Tech will come around to their way of how a sports program should be run. 


Recruiting ratings are a racket to sell website subscriptions to Rivals, 247, Scout, etc. You, I nor anyone else has any idea who the "No. 3 pro style QB" or the "No. 7 DE" in the country is. 

It's a joke. Recruiting rankings and stars mean nothing.


Think about Bradley's remarks here. And then think about those articles aimed at Georgia Tech - by Bradley and other sports writers as well as comments from fans of Tech and other programs - who have given Paul Johnson grief for not being able to fill the roster with 4 and 5 star recruits. The ratio of "star" ranking players to the number of players who are the actual stars in the game seems to be a revelation to Bradley and others. To Paul Johnson - this is nothing new and is the reason he recruits like he does. He has the ability to see raw talent and coach players to his need for the team and their best abilities - regardless of the number of stars. This is also the moral of his story whether Bradley admits it or not.  


@GaTechOldTimer Agree 100%, I read an article where only 20 of the ESPN top 300 players from 2007 made an NFL roster. I bet that if you asked each one of them they all thought that they were going to be in the NFL, because "ESPN rated me 4 or 5 stars,  so it most be true, I'm going to the NFL."