Malcolm Butler isn't just a Super Bowl hero, he's also one helluva success story -- so says his former college coach who tells TMZ Sports he couldn't be more proud of the guy.
We spoke with University of West Alabama head coach Brett Gilliland who says he was watching the game with the entire coaching staff when Malcolm made the game-winning interception.
"As soon as he made his break on the interception, we started to scream. We went crazy. It was chaotic!"
But last night wasn't the first time Malcolm overcame the odds, according to Coach Gilliland.
"Malcolm's got a great story. He was dealt some bad hands in life. There was a time when he wasn't on the right path. He got his life back on track ... then last night happened."
If you didn't know, Malcolm was kicked off his community college football team before he went to UWA ... and took a job at Popeye's to make ends meet.
But he was a "perfect angel" at UWA, coach says ... and he's happy the Patriots decided to take a chance on him as an undrafted free agent.
"He just needed a shot, and the Pats were the only team that'd give him it. Credit to them. They believed in him, and he repaid them."
Coach says he hasn't spoken with Malcolm yet ... but has a message for the guy:
"We are so proud of you. You mean so much to this University and community. You've given us all something to root for."