FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Malcolm Butler had to know this was coming.

As he walked to his locker Wednesday at Gillette Stadium, a swarm of media followed him, surrounding him as he began to get ready for practice.

Interviews are nothing new for Butler, the third-year cornerback for the New England Patriots. As the team’s top pass defender, he is often sought for his insights into opposing teams.

But this week? This was Malcolm Butler week.

The Patriots (7-1) are coming off their bye to play the Seattle Seahawks (5-2-1) at 8:30 p.m. Sunday at Gillette Stadium. It’s a rematch of the Super Bowl after the 2014 season, a 28-24 victory for New England that wasn’t decided until Butler – then a rookie free agent – made an end-zone interception with 20 seconds remaining.

His life changed in that moment. Butler went to the Grammys, to the ESPYs and to the Kids’ Choice Awards on Nickelodeon. He got a shout-out from President Obama when the team visited the White House.

Since then he has refused to allow that one play to define him.

“With that play or not, I’d probably be doing the same things,” he said. “You always want to be great, like everyone else. You’ve just got to work at it and stay focused.”

And Butler, 26, is regarded as being pretty good these days. Pro Football Focus, a website that dives deep into the NFL, selected him to the second team of its midseason all-pro team.

“He’s a really good player,” said Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll, who is returning to Foxborough for the first time since he was fired as the Patriots’ coach after the 1999 season. “He seems really instinctive and aggressive, and confident. He does a nice job.”

Butler, from Vicksburg, Mississippi, is regularly matched up with top receivers, and this year leads the Patriots with 10 passes defended.

He’s not that big – only 5-foot-11, 190 pounds – and went undrafted out of the University of West Alabama, so he knows he has to work hard to maintain his edge.

“You want to keep going, to try to take advantage of your opportunity while you have it because you don’t get to play that long,” he said. “You want to be productive to your team and do anything to help the team win.”

It’s that attitude that has endeared Butler to his teammates and coaches.

“I think Malcolm is pretty humble overall,” said Patriots Coach Bill Belichick. “He’s confident, he works hard, he loves to compete. But at the same time he is humble about his success and the notoriety that he’s received, not just for one play, but also as he’s established himself as a solid NFL corner.”

For Butler, it’s simply about being true to himself. “I ain’t doing nothing but being myself, so it’s playing out how it’s playing out,” he said.

Asked about his most famous play, Butler admitted Wednesday that he smiles “whenever I think back on it.”

Then he quickly added, “That’s not going to help us win this game. It’s bigger than me. It’s about the team and that play will not help us Sunday night. So we’ve got to be ready to play.”

For old times’ sake, let’s recap that play.

With the Patriots leading 28-24, Seattle drove to a first down at the Patriots’ 5 when Jermaine Kearse made a miraculous 33-yard catch. Butler tipped the ball into the air but Kearse caught it while on his back with 1:06 remaining. After a Marshawn Lynch run to the 1, Russell Wilson surprisingly threw a quick slant to Ricardo Lockett. But Butler, anticipating the play, jumped the route and intercepted the pass to secure the Patriots’ fourth Super Bowl championship.

Last year Butler stepped into the No. 1 cornerback role and opposing teams went right at him. Butler not only held up but had a marvelous season, with 72 tackles, two interceptions and 15 passes defended.

There’s been no letup this year; Butler has 33 tackles and one interception. Matt Patricia, the Patriots’ defensive coordinator, said Butler understands what it takes to stay at the top.

“Certainly he’s come a long way,” said Patricia. “Really, our focus is trying to get him better. We do try to make sure he’s improving in all things he has on the field, but also off the field – in the meeting room, being attentive, making sure we’re studying the opponents and understanding the game plan, understanding big-picture concepts.”

Butler realizes all eyes will be on him. NBC will probably show his interception a time or two.

But he knows he’s got to be ready for whatever Seattle throws his way.

“You’ve got to prepare for everything,” he said. “They’re going to come in here and try to win. They’re a good team. They’re going to come here and play hard, and we’ve got to be ready to go.”