When Harrison Butker was working out in front of the professional scouts at the Georgia Tech pro day last month, he was subjected to several tactics to throw off his timing. None of the gamesmanship seemed to bother him. He has been subjected to worse.
Whether it was participating in a drill to run on the field as time was running out or being forced to re-kick the ball when a last-second timeout was called, Butker saw a little bit of everything during his pro day workouts. It was all stuff he’d seen before in live situations.
But this time he was kicking for his future and wasn’t going to get anything derail his opportunity to kick at the NFL level.
“That was cool,” Butker said. “Those are game situations. Going into a game you prepare for things, and you don’t know what’s going to happen. That’s part of football.”
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So is the difficult journey for a specialist to land one of 32 jobs as an NFL place-kicker. Few teams select a kicker in the NFL draft; only one was taken a year ago. Professional teams typically prefer to bring in a handful of undrafted free agents and see which one sticks. That’s the likely path that Butker will face as he begins his professional career.
His credentials are impeccable. The Westminster product earned the starting job as a freshman and left Georgia Tech as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 337 points. He made 43-of-60 kicks in his career, a 71.7 percentage of success and was 15-for-17 as a senior. Butker also gained the respect of his teammates, who voted him a permanent captain — a rare honor for a place-kicker.
One problem facing Butker may be with the lack of attempts. There’s just not that much tape on his actual kicks. More often than not, the Yellow Jackets would try to make a first down rather than bring in Butker to try a long field goal. By comparison, Zane Gonzalez of Arizona State won the Lou Groza Award and is considered the most draftable kicker. Gonzalez kicked 14 field goals of at least 40 yards; Butker was 7-for-7 from that distance.
Butker’s leg strength can be measured by his ability on kickoffs to boot it into the end zone. He kicked off 73 times and 54 resulted in touchbacks. He averaged 64.5 yards on kickoffs and none went out of bounds.
Butker said his decision to pursue a career in the NFL seemed natural, even though he only began playing football as a sophomore in high school. He has succeeded at each level and is eager to test his skills against the best.
“I pride myself on being a hard worker,” he said. “For me to play college football and not to think about the NFL, that’s a disservice to all the things I’ve been given as far as talent-wise and all the discipline I’ve been taught by my parents about hard work.
“Of course, when I was playing college football I was focused on that, but I’m trying to see what I can do, trying to push my limits. The NFL has always been a dream since started kicking the ball in high school.”