With clutch field goals, mortar-shot kickoffs and an affable manner, Georgia Tech kicker Harrison Butker has won no shortage of fans with his successful four-year run with the Yellow Jackets. That legion includes a doctoral candidate at the University of Georgia named Luke Manget.
Fate and strong right legs have brought the two men into the TaxSlayer Bowl tied for Tech’s career scoring record at 322 points.
“First of all, Harrison’s been a tremendous kicker for us,” Manget said. “I’ve really enjoyed watching him play — a real strong leg, dependable, clutch guy. Of course, after 2014, that was 53 yards in the final seconds (against Georgia) — that kick alone earned all of the prestige he wants, all the records he wants. That was a tough kick. And he nailed it.”
Manget will have no problems with Butker taking the record that he’s held since his final season, 2002. He said he’ll be watching Tech play Kentucky on Saturday.
“I hope he does well,” Manget said. “I hope he kicks several field goals.”
Manget created his own memories, most notably drilling a 38-yarder from the left hash mark to beat Georgia 51-48 in overtime in 1999, his freshman season. He was a three-time All-ACC selection and was inducted into Tech’s athletics hall of fame in 2014.
“It seems so long ago,” he said. “Such a different chapter.”
Manget’s identity clearly is not tied to the record. He has spent the past four years pursuing a history doctorate at Georgia and will defend his 320-page dissertation (an environmental history of the botanical drug industry in southern Appalachia) in January. Now 35, Manget is married to Natalie with three boys under 10 (Henry, Charlie and Jack).
He said his status only comes up occasionally, sometimes by students in his classes who look him up online. The other day, a computer technician came to his office. Noticing his nameplate on his door, he mentioned that Tech used to have a kicker with the same name. Manget fessed up, and the two talked football.
After four years in Athens — he went there to study under John Inscoe, a leading scholar in Appalachian history — fate may bring him home. He has applied for several professorships, including one in environmental history at Tech.
“That’d be pretty nice,” he said. “That’d be hard to beat.”
He continues to follow Tech avidly. He was delighted that Butker tied the record with the game-winning extra point against Georgia.
“He’s got great form, I can tell that,” Manget said. “It’s hard to tell what his tendencies are. I don’t study that closely, but he’s got a great combination of consistency and power, and that’s something that I didn’t have. I had to kind of work hard for my power because I’m 5-10, barely. I’ve got short little legs.”
Butker has achieved this lofty point by essentially ignoring it.
“It’ll mean a lot,” he said. “I think that record is a record that shows somebody just kind of did their job and kept their head down and was there for however long they were.”
Butker’s 322 is considerably different than Manget’s. Butker is 39-for-56 on field-goal attempts and 205-for-207 on extra-point attempts. Manget made 54 field goals in 77 attempts and was 160-for-160 on extra-point tries, the most PAT’s without a miss in school history.
The two are connected by more than the record. Manget wore No. 87, as does Butker. And, in fact, so did Travis Bell, who ranks third in points scored. Butker had an uncle who attended Lakeside High with an uncle of Manget’s. Most curiously, the north DeKalb County home that Manget grew up in until his family moved to Conyers is about three miles away from Butker’s home.
Historians (such as Manget) might be interested to note that he actually scored more than 322 points while at Tech. NCAA records began to recognize statistics accumulated in bowl games only in 2002, Manget’s final season. He scored 15 points in his first three bowl games, which would give him 337.
“I wasn’t going to bring it up,” Manget said when asked about the matter.
Perhaps it may not matter. Last week, Johnson joked with Butker that he would go for two after every touchdown to prevent him from scoring.
“He said that at the banquet,” Butker said. “But I think he’s joking. Hopefully.”
Manget said a part of him will be sad to see the record go to Butker, but acknowledged it was inevitable. He called it an honor to have held it.
“Now it’ll be Harrison that everybody’s chasing,” he said.