Ex-Georgia Tech kicker Harrison Butker helped Chiefs make it back to Super Bowl

Former Yellow Jackets standout set to kick in his third Super Bowl

PHOENIX — If not for a tackle by Kansas City kicker Harrison Butker on a punt return, the Chiefs may not have made it to Super Bowl LVII.

Thanks, in part, to Butker and his potentially game-saving tackle in the divisional round and his winning field-goal kick a week later in the AFC Championship game, the Chiefs (16-3) are set to face the Eagles (16-3) at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

With the Chiefs up 27-17, returner Jamal Agnew broke free for 42 yards and appeared headed for a score when Butker, who played at Georgia Tech, made a tackle at the Jaguars’ 45.

“He made a big-time saving tackle against Jacksonville,” Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “That kid almost took it back. I think it was Agnew. He made the tackle. I gave him all that credit for that kick he made, but if he didn’t make that tackle, we may not have had that opportunity to make that kick. That was an outstanding tackle.”

The Chiefs went on to beat the Jaguars 27-20 and then needed 45-yard field goal at the buzzer to beat the Bengals 23-20 and make it back to their third Super Bowl over the past four seasons.

“It’s a blessing,” Butker said. “Third time in four years. It’s crazy to even say that out loud. It’s a blessing to be here, to be in an organization with coach (Andy) Reid and so many great players like Patrick (Mahomes), (and) Travis Kelce. So, I’m enjoying every moment.”

Butker plans to be ready if the Chiefs need him against the Eagles.

“I try to treat every kick like a big kick,” Butker said. “So, whether that’s the warm-up kicks before the game, the practice kicks in the game, the extra point in the first quarter, all of those kicks are big kicks, so when I do get to that big moment, I’ve been there before. I’ve done it. I think that gives me the best chance for success.”

The Chiefs changed their personal in the secondary and along the offensive line and rebuilt the wide receiver corps since they won Super Bowl LIV over the 49ers, 31-20 after the 2019 regular season. The lost Super Bowl LV to Tampa Bay after the 2020 season and lost in the AFC title game after the 2021 season.

“Just a lot of different guys,” Butker said. “Different coaches. Every team is just so unique and so different.”

Butker played at Westminster Schools and at Tech from 2013-16. He was drafted in the seventh round (233rd overall) by the Panthers in 2017, but was released Sept. 26 that year. He signed the same day with the Chiefs.

He went on to make the PFWA’s All-Rookie team and has been a mainstay every since.

Butker tries to stay mentally sharp.

“I’m definitely strong in my faith, so I pray a lot,” Butker said. “I think that keeps football where it should be, below God, my wife and children. It’s in its right place. I try to be as process-oriented as I can. Focus on the details. When I’m kicking a field goal, I want to be in the same spot every time.”

Butker tries to emphasize the foot-to-ball connection on each kick.

“I work on ball-contact drills, all of those things, so when I do get in a big moment, hopefully I’m on autopilot,” Butker said. “I can just go out there, and the ball will just go through. I don’t have to really think much about it.”

He has trained with Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo.

“A couple of years ago, we were together in Atlanta,” Butker said. “He was training here a little bit in the offseason, so I was able to kick with him and also with Tyler Bass. Tyler and Younghoe were together at Georgia Southern, so I’ve kicked with them a number of times.”

The Chiefs are practicing at State Farm Stadium, the site of the game and where they played the Cardinals to open the 2022 season. They pounded the Cardinals 44-21, and Butker made a 54-yarder in the game.

Kickers look for any little edge.

“I know the sidelines and where we are going to be,” Butker said. “What backgrounds of what both end zones are going to look like. The visuals behind the uprights because I’ve been there before.

“This week throughout practice I can visualize where I’m going to be running onto the field, what it looks like inside the stadium. What the field looks like with the LVII logos painted on the field. It was all very helpful.”

Visualizing success is a positive mental reinforcement for Butker.

“The more you can put yourself in the game-day atmosphere, I think the easier it is when you do get to that moment because you’ve been there before,” Butker said.

If the Chiefs need a long field goal, Butker plans to be ready. He made a career-long 62-yard field goal at the halftime buzzer against the Bills on Oct. 16. The kick tied the score 10-10, and Chiefs went on to win 24-20.

“I don’t think about the long field goals,” Butker said. “I think about sometimes having a game-winner. In practice you have to make sure that you’re able to kick those long field goals.

“End-of-half, end-of-game you might be outside of your typical field-goal range. But the chance of you making maybe a line-drive field goal is better than throwing a Hail Mary pass by the quarterback. So, you have to be prepared for that. It’s rare, but you have to be ready for it when it happens.”

Butker is confident going into the game.

“I feel like I’m kicking the ball well,” Butker said. “I’m kicking it accurate. Making sure that it’s going straight and where you want it to go.”

The Bow Tie Chronicles