KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Harrison Butker’s first month as an NFL kicker started with the dark cloud of a missed kick but finished with nothing but the sunny skies of 18 straight field goal successes and honors as the AFC special teams player of the month for October.
Those 18 field goals in October set a record for most field goals in any single month by a rookie kicker. It’s also more field goals than Butker made in any single season in college at Georgia Tech. He’s also closing in on the franchise record of 22 straight field goals made by Pete Stoyanovich during the 1997-98 seasons.
“I think my senior year I made 17 total field goals and before that I made like seven field goals a season or something like that,” Butker said. “This is definitely new for me.”
Head coach Andy Reid said general manager Brett Veach and special teams coordinator Dave Toub sold him on Butker. Veach and Toub liked what they saw in Butker during draft preparations. The club had no need for a kicker, however, with incumbent Cairo Santos on hand.
The Chiefs signed the rookie from the Carolina Panthers practice squad after Santos went on injured reserve with a groin injury. The club later released Santos, rolling the dice on the rookie.
“They loved the kid and what they saw,” Reid said. “Big kid has a strong leg. They felt like he had good accuracy and would fit in well, and he’s done all that.”
Yet Butker’s success outshines the high praise Veach and Toub used to sell him to Reid.
“Probably even a little bit more than maybe what they bragged on him to me about,” Reid said. “I would tell you that he’s really done a nice job in primetime games too. We kind of threw him right in the fire early. But he’s done a nice job and he keeps a pretty level head.”
Butker’s five field goal Monday night in the team’s 29-19 win over Denver earned him AFC special teams player of the week honors on Wednesday.
“I wasn’t thinking about it after the game but really happy I got it,” Butker said. “It’s nice being recognized.”
Butker’s finally kick improved his field goal success rate to 95 percent on the season. That ranks him fourth among all kickers with at least 10 attempts this season. It’s also one spot ahead of Panthers kicker Graham Gano, under whom Butker served as understudy during training camp and into his first NFL season.
“You learn the in and outs of being an NFL kicker,” Butker said. “Graham’s being kicking for nine years or something like that. He knows a ton about kicking, so I learned a lot over there.”
The rookie kicker never seemed to lack confidence upon his arrival in Kanas City. Yet he says the experience he gained over the past month helped him mature quickly.
“It does help having so many attempts in a game and then having multiple kicks every single game,” Butker said. “Kind of like the next game I’m going into I can kind of look back at what I’ve done these past games, and that kind of gives me confidence knowing the next game I’m going to play I know can do this.”
Butker showed his growing maturity in the fourth quarter of Monday’s game. The Chiefs showed no hesitation sending him out for a 51-yard field goal into a slight breeze. He made only one of two kicks from 49 yards in the same direction during warmups. He barely sent one quick over the crossbar and left the other short.
“There was a little breeze, a little bit in my face kind of the whole game but not as bad as the warmups,” Butker said. “I didn’t really even think about that when I went out there. I knew I had adrenaline, I was confident hitting the ball well.”