Chiefs’ Harrison Butker doesn’t fit the stereotype of NFL placekickers

Harrison Butker decided in high school that he wanted to sign up for Twitter. It was the cool thing to do at Westminster (Ga.) High School. The first thing on the list was to pick a Twitter handle. Once he decided on a handle, he needed to get it approved.

Not by Twitter itself, mind you, but by a higher authority.

So when he got home that day, he asked his mom what she thought of “ButtKicker” as a Twitter handle. After all, a Twitter handle is forever, right?

“When I came home and told her what I wanted to do, she was laughing,” Butker said. “She loves it. It’s better than a lot of other nicknames I was called.”

The segue from Butker to ButtKicker was an easy one, but it fits his personality. He’s not a stereotypical NFL place kicker. He’s an athlete who happens to kick in the NFL.

“I played soccer and basketball my whole life,” said Butker, who at 6-4, 200, looks more like a basketball player than a kicker. “I started kicking as a sophomore in high school. Everybody in high school knew me as a soccer player and a basketball player, not a football player.

“I’m calm and confident. Sometimes kickers can get too much inside their own heads. I think I have an athletic mentality from playing other sports. With football, I’m just one of the guys out there doing my job. I’m calm, cool and collected.”

That was evidenced in Butker’s first action with the Chiefs. After Cairo Santos was injured against the Los Angeles Chargers, they signed Butker. The Chargers were penalized for roughing the kicker on a 51-yard attempt that missed, but Santos finished the game. The genesis of the signing went back to preseason, when Santos saw no game action because of a groin injury. The Chiefs were following Butker, who was the Carolina Panthers’ seventh-round draft pick. He lost the roster spot to veteran Graham Gano, but was placed on the practice squad.

Not a lot of teams use draft picks on kickers, especially when they have a veteran already on the roster. But the Panthers saw something in Butker.

“Coach (Thomas) McGaughey, the special teams coach in Carolina, believed in me,” he said. “I had the potential. I just had to go out there and do it.”

Butker is Georgia Tech’s all-time leading scorer, and he finished his collegiate career making four field goals in the TaxSlayer Bowl victory over Kentucky. Butker was a third-team All-ACC pick his senior year, connecting on 15-of-17 field goal attempts, with the longest 52 yards, making all 46 extra point tries and forcing 54 touchbacks on 73 kickoffs. His four-year totals are 43-of-60 on field goals and 208-of-210 on extra points.

Butker’s first NFL attempt came on Monday Night Football against the Washington Redskins. After the Redskins dominated the first quarter, the Chiefs drew to within 10-7 in the second quarter. Butker lined up for a 46-yard field goal with just under a minute. It would feel really good to go to the locker room tied after playing so poorly in the first half.

Except Butker missed the kick, wide-left.

“I think it helped, if anything,” he said of missing his first attempt. “I got that one out of the way. I’m confident. I know I can go out there and make kicks. If you miss a kick, you just go out there and move on to the next one. I’m confident in my abilities. It didn’t worry me.

“I felt good. It was a matter of going on to the next one. I don’t think the distance was an issue at all. With my leg, 46 yards is not difficult. There was no wind in my face either. It just didn’t go through.”

Butker has proven himself to be a prophet. He responded to the miss with three field goals against the Redskins, including the game-winner with four seconds left. He has hit 18 in a row since that first miss, including five on a Monday night game to end October to beat the Broncos.

“We weren’t sure exactly what we were getting when he came here but we knew he was a good kicker in college,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “He’s a big kid. You don’t see a lot of 6-3, 6-4 kickers out there. We were anxious to get him to see what he was all about.

“He’s got a huge leg and you can see that with his kickoffs. His field goals, he’s really done a heck of a job with that. The trust that we have to shoot him there and really that’s (special team coordinator Dave) Toub having that trust. He sees him every day and works with him every day. To have that confidence, that right there at the 35 he’s going to be spot on in that area, that’s a great job by him building that confidence in all of us.”

Butker is a confident young man, but he’s also realistic. He knows he won’t keep his job because of his cool Twitter handle.

“I’ve got a lot of faith and confidence in myself, but you have to go out and prove it every day,” he said.

“I knew I was a good kicker, and had that ability. But until you go on that stage and perform well, you never really know. Even though I had done well in the (Carolina) preseason, the regular season is a little different. I’ve proved I could do that. Now I have to keep doing that and be consistent and carry it on through all the games this season.”

He doesn’t feel like he’s any different from any of his Chiefs teammates. They don’t call him “Kicker” or “Rookie” or any of the other derogatory names that sometimes get hung on kickers.

“They call me ButtKicker,” he said. “I feel like I’m part of the team. I think they have faith in me. They just tell me to go out there and make the kicks. Once I do that, they’re happy. But I’m just doing my job.

”I think (the Twitter handle) is just a funny take on my last name. I’m gotten a lot of funny nicknames from my last name I think it’s a fun thing that caught on. It also kind of speaks to who I am as a person. I think it makes me unique.”

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Article by David Smale

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