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#TGW: Off on the Right Foot

March 8, 2017


Jon Cooper | The Good Word

Harrison Butker is grateful for the chance to recharge his batteries after completing the four-day whirlwind known as the NFL Scouting Combine last week.

In fact, it’s been something he’s been doing more than usual since coming back to Atlanta from Indianapolis and the NFL’s annual invitation-only event on Friday. It seems league personnel can’t get enough of him.

“My phone battery is dying so fast because I’ve been on it so much,” said Butker, with a laugh. “I’m going through this process where I have to pick up every phone call. I have been getting some calls and I don’t know the numbers and then you pick up and it’s a scout or a coach that you’ve met. It’s been a really cool experience. The combine was great. I got to meet with a lot of teams and a lot of coaches, so now I’m going to continue to get better at my craft, going to use all the information that I got from the combine to get better for Pro Day on March 17. It’s just been a fun experience.”

That the Decatur, Ga., native, Georgia Tech’s all-time leading scorer (337 points) got to go through this experience and could become so popular in NFL scouting circles says a lot, especially kicking for Paul Johnson, whose penchant for going for it on fourth down sometimes makes being Yellow Jackets place kicker a good option if you were to go into witness protection.

“In the spread option, you don’t get a lot of opportunities as the other guys on the field,” said Butker, who also finished as Georgia Tech’s career leader in PATs (208), and ranks third in school history in field-goal percentage (.717 — .882 as a senior, including 8-for-8 on kicks of at least 40 yards) and fifth in field goals made (43). “To be given that opportunity and to do well, that was just a great experience and I’m glad I was able to full take advantage of it.”

Butker was one of only four place kickers nationwide given the opportunity to show his skills at the combine — joining Memphis’ Jake Elliott, Arizona State’s Zane Gonzalez and Stanford’s Conrad Ukropina. The amount of times his phone has rang since he came home is testament to how well he performed under the bright lights and the watchful eyes of NFL head coaches and scouts.

He compared it to going through recruiting coming out of The Westminster School.

“It’s similar, just at a bigger level,” he said. “It’s a little different though because college is football and school and that’s the next four years of your life. The NFL is almost like a business decision. It’s kind of two different decisions but both huge decisions. It’s a little bit more professional.”

For Butker, who was accompanied by his parents for moral support, kicking was actually the easy part of the four-day process in Indianapolis. Much harder was the waiting — beginning on Tuesday, when he checked in with the other specialists (also including five punters and two long snappers) and the offensive linemen.

It was a lot of waiting — kind of the ultimate ‘icing the kicker.’

“All you see on TV is the 40-yard dash and the drill work. There’s a lot more stuff that goes on behind the scenes that nobody ever knows about,” Butker said. “What I didn’t realize was the amount of events that are going on before the physical tests. They’re spending so much time making sure you’re healthy and then trying to figure out your personality and how smart you are. Yeah, you have to have the physical capabilities but you have to make sure you’re smart, you have to make sure you have a good head on your shoulders, that you have your priorities lined up, that you’re not getting in trouble. That is so important. No NFL team is going to take a chance on you unless they know they can trust you being kind of in that position of power or influence. Also, there were a lot of guys there that weren’t crazy big. So you never know. You have to keep working.

“I thought it would be cool to be at the combine but I wasn’t really expecting it,” he added. “You just get the call and you’re surprised but you have to be ready. So you just have to keep working and take advantage of every moment and opportunity.”

Getting to re-live his kicking history at Georgia Tech was an important part of the the interview process, as he was asked to recall his biggest made kicks (the 52-yarder in 2014 at Georgia, the 35-yard game-tying FG against FSU that set up the “Miracle on Techwood Drive” in 2015, the 24-yard game-winner at Virginia Tech in 2014, and, going 4-for-4, including a 52-yarder at the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl) and biggest misses (2013 vs. Georgia late in the third quarter). He admitted the latter list was harder to recall, not only because there were fewer of them but because the mentality of the kicker requires a short memory.

“I don’t think I had a big miss or a big fourth-quarter miss. Or I’m not aware of one,” he said. “That’s the thing. You have to forget about those.”

Butker admitted he got a kick out of the psychological study.

“There were a bunch of different psychological tests, from short answers, multiple choice, almost half personality, then half analytical questions. There weren’t too many crazy questions,” he said. “They asked, `Am I most similar to a cat or most similar to a dog?’ I obviously said dog. I feel like if you say you’re most similar to a cat, that’s just not what they’re looking for in the NFL.”

Butker is dogged in his determination to succeed at Georgia Tech Pro Day at the John and Mary Brock Football Practice Facility next Friday, using some of the ideas he exchanged with the other kickers as well as the feedback he got at the combine — although he was not privvy to his Wonderlic score.

“I currently do not know the score that I got. I don’t think we get to know our scores,” he said. “I think those are the things that the team looks at and they evaluate.

“I thought I did pretty well answering all the questions but, as a kicker, you just have to put the ball through the uprights,” he added, with a laugh. “It felt pretty good when I was done with it. If I could get a decent score on it then I think a lot of people around Tech definitely could. I think if they gave it to the majority of Tech students they’d be right around 50 (out of 50).”

Butker is grateful for his shot at the combine and can’t wait to see what’s next.

“I think I learned some things that I’ll showcase at Pro Day, show off some of my strengths and show off some things I’ve been working on since the combine,” he said. “You have to be comfortable. You have to treat it like a game. You have to excel when there’s pressure on the line. It’s exciting, that next step forward and having to kind of pursue that next level of the NFL. It’s such a cool experience.”

Butker, who also is preparing for private workouts with some NFL teams, believes some of his teammates will take advantage of Pro Day and perform well in front of some of the same scouts he met at the combine.

“I think Ryan Rodwell will be holding for me and he’ll be punting, so he’ll definitely get a look,” said Butker. “I think we have some great guys that maybe aren’t getting a huge look right now but definitely did a great job at Georgia Tech and hopefully can show off what they can do in the NFL if they get that shot.”


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