Jarell Byrd had a huge rooting interest as he and his friends watched the Super Bowl Sunday night at his apartment in Alabama.
Not only is the former Lynn Classical basketball star a diehard Patriots fan, but he was especially pulling for one of his University of West Alabama buddies to play well in the NFL’s championship game.
The player that Jarell was pulling for was Malcolm Butler, whose interception of a Russell Wilson pass at the goal line saved the day and clinched the Patriots’ 28-24 victory. Butler became an instant Super Bowl hero and he and teammate Julian Edelman were invited to Disneyland for a celebratory parade.
“I know Malcolm well,” said Byrd. “We met through our participation in West Alabama sports and he’s a great guy. Malcolm used to come to all my basketball game and I used to go to all his football games.”
Byrd dined with Butler on occasion in the university dining hall and they traveled in the same circles as elite college athletes often do. The schoolmates also matched up on Play Station but never in a one-on-one basketball game.
Byrd said he knew that Butler had tremendous talent as a defensive back, having watched him play and knowing that he earned All-Gulf South Coast Conference honors. But even Byrd didn’t expect to see the crazy events that transpired in the final two minutes of the Super Bowl, including Jermaine Kearse’s circus catch at the 6-yard line.
“I knew Malcolm was a really good player,” said Byrd. “But I never expected to see a finish like that with Malcolm making that incredible interception. He made the play that needed to be made. I’m really happy for him.”
Byrd said he watched the Super Bowl in his apartment with his West Alabama basketball teammates along with some football players, some of whom were Butler’s teammates at UWA.
“I was so excited, proud of him, and happy for him,” said Byrd. “The football players were really excited. They knew he was a good player and expected big things from him.”
Byrd added, “I’m a big Patriots fan and with Malcolm being from West Alabama, I followed the team really closely this season.”
Byrd said the players sent a congratulatory text message to Butler moments after the game. “He just won the Super Bowl and he was still in the moment. I hope to catch up with him this week.”
Byrd is enjoying a solid season for the West Alabama basketball team. The 6-foot-5-inch senior is averaging 10 points per game for the Tigers who are 14-8 and hope to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Byrd had a spectacular dunk in a recent game.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to Lynn for spring break,” said Byrd. “Then I’ll be back here finishing up my year.”