Freshman Harrison Butker won the starting kicker job for this season. The 6-3 Butker went to high school at Westminster in Atlanta, Ga. He broke many school records, and in his junior year, he went 16-17 on field goals. The lone miss was from 59 yards.
Butker was named first team All-American in high school by several football organizations. Through his first six games, Butker is 5-for-8 on field goals, including 4-for-5 from beyond 40 yards.
Butker has given Tech a new dimension in the kicking game this year. In the past three seasons, Coach Johnson had been hesitant to call on the field goal kicking unit for long distance kicks, but this season, Butker has been very reliable.
Butker has also had a major impact on the kickoff unit. His touchback percentage on kickoffs is 42.86 percent, which is the highest in the Paul Johnson era by almost 30 percent.
Like most kickers, Butker had a heavy soccer background. Butker played soccer in high school and helped Westminster win back-to-back state championships his last two years.
“I started playing soccer when I was 3. Both my parents played soccer in college. My dad played at Berry. My mom played at Smith,” Butker said.
Butker, who grew up as a Tech fan, eventually got interested in football.
“My mom got her Master’s at Georgia Tech. I was really a big basketball fan. Then I started watching the Georgia Tech football games,” Butker said.
Butker started playing kicker his sophomore year in high school. He handled only kickoffs, but by his junior year, he was handling all kicking and punting responsibilities. While Butker also excelled as a punter and received All-American accolades for punting as well, he has yet to take a punt in his career. Butker realized his potential shortly after beginning to play football.
“All kickers look for that opportunity and in my training I like to envision those types of kicks under pressure.”
“My rising junior year I went to a camp run by Prokicker.com. They ranked me pretty high. I thought that maybe I could have a future in college,” Butker said.
Butker was offered a full scholarship to play for Tech and committed shortly after attending a summer camp.
“Ten years ago, scholarships for kickers were extremely rare and coaches are starting to realize how important kickers are and how they can swing a game,” Butker said.
Butker is one of the few true freshman receiving playing time this season, and he is very excited about having a positive impact on this year’s team.
“That’s what I wanted when I came to Tech. I noticed the playing opportunity, so I was looking forward to doing something my freshman year,” Butker said. “My number one goal was field goal percentage. Lou Groza award has always been in the back of my mind, and a high touchback percentage, but anything to help the team.”
Butker is confident in his kicking abilities and feels that he is consistent from 53 yards and in.
There is a long legacy of Tech kickers’ kicking games winning field goals, including a kick that helped Tech win the 1990 nation championship: Scott Sisson kicked a game-winning field goal with seven seconds left in the game against UVA, who was ranked number one at the time.
Most notably, Luke Manget also had a game-winning kick in 1999 against Georgia that gave Tech a 51-48 victory in overtime. It was the last time Tech beat UGA in Bobby Dodd Stadium. Butker hopes to one day get a chance to kick a game winning field goal.
“All kickers look for that opportunity, and in my training, I like to envision those types of kicks under pressure,” Butker said.
Losing three consecutive games, the football team has had a rough three weeks. However, the team is staying positive, and players are confident they will break their losing streak in the game against Syracuse.
“We had a really good practice today. I think it’s positive in the locker room. We look at the season as two different seasons. We’re starting the second half of our season 0-0 and we’re looking forward to Syracuse.”