Chiefs’ new kicker is eager to make NFL debut Monday night
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Harrison Butker knows it would be easy to poke fun at his last name, so the kicker beat everyone to the punch by adopting as his Twitter handle the nickname given to him by a coach at Georgia Tech.
Turns out @buttkicker87 still fits, too.
The rookie has kicked some bootie all the way to the active roster of the Kansas City Chiefs, who claimed Butker off the Carolina Panthers’ practice squad this week. They needed someone to handle kicking duties after Cairo Santos was placed on injured reserve with a groin injury, and Butker was impressive enough not only in college but also in preseason games to warrant a call.
“I was in Charlotte and I got the phone call. I think it was Monday afternoon,” he recalled, “and Tuesday was our off day in Carolina, so I was looking forward to that. I got the call that the Chiefs wanted to bring me in and had to take advantage of the opportunity. So I took a flight Monday evening and got here. Then started early morning Tuesday, got rolling.”
There’s no time to waste: The unbeaten Chiefs play the Washington Redskins on Monday night, giving Butker a massive prime-time stage on which to make his regular-season debut.
“But you have to treat it like any other game,” Butker said. “I’ve heard it’s a loud, exciting, vibrant stadium, so I’m really looking forward to that. All good things. What a way to start my career.”
Butker, who wore No. 87 for the Yellow Jackets but will wear No. 7 with the Chiefs, comes to Kansas City with an impressive pedigree. He finished as his college’s career scoring leader while ranking third in field-goal percentage and fifth in career field goals.
All despite kicking for a coach in Paul Johnson who went for it on fourth down quite often.
“If you look at my stats from college, I didn’t have a lot of attempts, so the only thing I would probably say about that is it’s hard to get into a rhythm when you go four or five games without a field goal,” he explained before practice Thursday. “Now that I’m in the NFL, there’s a lot more attempts. I think you get a lot more comfortable as the season goes on.”
Still, Butker showed enough comfort coming out of Georgia Tech that the Panthers used a seventh-round pick on him. And while he was unable to beat out incumbent Graham Gano, the Panthers were quick to add him to their practice squad after letting him go.
The Chiefs kept their eye on him in case they needed help.
Santos had a groin injury throughout training camp, though Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder says the current injury is unrelated. But it gave them every reason to compile a short list of fill-ins should the need arise.
That’s what happened last week in Los Angeles, when Burkholder said Santos — the franchise’s career leader in accuracy — hurt his groin on a warmup kick late in the game.
“We got him through that game,” Burkholder said, “then we brought him in here on Monday and he was a little bit worse. We did some studies on him and realized he has a fairly significant groin injury that will limit him from playing the next few weeks.”
The Chiefs then made the call to the Panthers, then the call to their new kicker.
“He was a pretty good kicker in college and we feel like he did a nice job in the preseason,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “And it’ll carry over to now.”