Further, four of Butker’s attempts were in Tech’s TaxSlayer Bowl victory, when awards had already been handed out. (He made all four in that game, including one from a season-long 52 yards, to make the Associated Press all-bowl team and become the school’s all-time leading scorer.)
However, he obviously made an impression on the scouts who parceled out the 330 invites, only four of which went to kickers.
“Initially, I was surprised,” Butker said. “I was very thankful, but it meant a lot to me to know that I was on their radar because I definitely feel like I have the potential and the ability to play at the next level.”
He did show that potential in his opportunities. Beyond making 15 of 17 field-goal attempts, he was 8-for-8 from 40 yards and beyond. He was nearly automatic on kickoffs, recording touchbacks on 54 of 73 kickoffs. His 74 percent rate was sixth highest in FBS.
“My senior season, I wanted to show teams I could be accurate,” Butker said. “The past three seasons, I had made big kicks, but I hadn’t put together a good season. That’s what they need in the NFL – a kicker that can hit 80 to 90 percent.”
On top of his field-goal performance in Indianapolis, Butker said he showed well on his 11 kickoffs – five for distance and six directional kicks. Of his five kickoffs, he said, three hit the fence behind the end zone. One, he said, might have cleared the crossbar. He is a fan of the NFL ball, which is plumper than the college ball and has a bigger sweet spot.
“I’m really crushing the ball right now,” he said.
Butker is an even-keeled sort, but admitted he got pretty competitive on the kickoffs at the combine. Asked how the workout with Arizona State’s Zane Gonzalez, Memphis’ Jake Elliott and Stanford’s Conrad Ukropina turned out, he was relatively diplomatic.
“I don’t want to bash anyone, but I definitely had a great performance,” he said.
Agent Jordan Hagedorn declined to name teams, but said that he had conversations with several teams that expressed interest. Butker, who is Hagedorn’s first-ever client, also had private meetings with multiple teams.
“There’s definitely some interest,” Hagedorn said.
Besides interviews with teams and the on-field kicking session, Butker also took several lengthy evaluations that were a mix of personality test and gauge of analytical thinking, he said. One question asked whether he was more like a cat or a dog.
“Definitely a dog,” he said. “I don’t know who would put that they’re more similar to a cat.”
Tech’s pro day is March 17. To prepare, he is training with Tech strength and conditioning coach Ben Sowders and kicking with his old team of snapper Sean Tobin and punter Ryan Rodwell. He is also finishing up his industrial management degree with one class and a one-credit research project.
In the past 10 years, NFL teams have selected 1.7 kickers per year, ranging from none in two drafts to four in 2012.
“He’s got something to prove,” Hagedorn said. “He showed what he can do at the combine and I think all those teams looking for a kicker definitely know his name now.”