The New England Patriots took a chance on Malcolm Butler, and he rewarded them with the game-winning interception in Super Bowl XLIX.
But what if there are more Malcolm Butler types who are going undiscovered?
That's part of Don Yee's inspiration for launching HUB Football. The powerful agent of former Patriots quarterbacks Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo is spearheading a "1-2 day strategically intensive, professional football development and teaching camp" to connect undrafted players and other NFL hopefuls with clubs that can use their services.
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On the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast, Yee joined Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran to explain why Butler is the perfect example of a player who would benefit from the HUB Football model.
"There's a lot of guys that can play," Yee told Curran. "It's just sometimes the opportunity meeting the timing, and the exposure."
"It's tremendous credit to Malcolm and the Patriots coaching staff that that even happened. Tremendous. And as you know, because of that, it changed NFL history, right?"
Butler went undrafted out of Division II West Alabama in 2014, but the Patriots invited him to their rookie minicamp, where he impressed enough to earn a three-year contract. The rest is history: Butler intercepted Russell Wilson on the goal line to seal the Patriots' dramatic Super Bowl XLIX win over the Seattle Seahawks and spent four seasons in New England before moving on to the Tennessee Titans in 2018.
As Yee pointed out, though, several circumstances had to line up for Butler to even join the Patriots in the first place.
"That event is the result of Malcolm being unemployed but staying in shape and believing in himself," Yee said. "It also was contingent on whomever his agent was at that point probably begging any teams to give him a look of any kind.
"It also was contingent on somebody in New England keeping an eye on him and saying, 'Hey, why don't we at least invest a little bit of money and take a look at this guy?' And then it was contingent on the efforts of the coaching staff and their belief."
"So, a lot of little things that ultimately became big things had to connect for that moment to happen in the Super Bowl, which literally changed a lot of narratives."
Yee's HUB Football initiative aims to make it much easier for teams like the Patriots to find players like Butler by putting players in the best possible position to land an NFL gig.
"We want to make it far more efficient and really, truly customize the product to exactly what an NFL general manager wants to see," Yee said. "How it is conducted, the timing, the types of people invited. So, it's not going to be all comers. We will vet the players that are interested. This is a product really only for those players that truly have NFL type of ability."
Butler is far from the only undrafted player to find success in the NFL. (Ever heard of Antonio Gates, James Harrison or Priest Holmes?) But there likely are similarly talented players who never got their chance due to unfortunate timing or any number of other circumstances.
Yee's product hopes to uncover more diamonds in the rough and make Butler's story more of a norm than an exception.