Tech alumni making waves in new NFL season

Photo by Sarah Schmitt Student Publications

The National Football League (NFL) is in full swing, with the bulk of week four’s games set to take place this weekend. Taking the field alongside some of the best and brightest stars of the game will be a number of Tech alumni, including Harrison Butker and Shaq Mason. Here is what some former stars of The Flats have been up to in the NFL.

Harrison Butker

Butker, Tech’s most prolific scorer in history, has turned into one of the best kickers in the NFL. The Tech grad features prominently in a high-powered Chiefs’ offense led by reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes.
Butker recorded the most extra-point attempts in the league last year. After helping the Chiefs reach the AFC Championship game, Kansas City rewarded their kicker handsomely with a five year, $20M extension, making him one of the highest-paid kickers in the NFL. Butker has been his usual, automatic self so far this year — the Decatur native has not missed a field goal and has lost out on only one extra-point attempt for the first-place Chiefs.

Shaq Mason

As one of the most prominent Tech alumni in the NFL, Mason has established himself as one of the best offensive-lineman in the league. Pro Football Focus graded him out as the best guard in the league following his 2018 season. Mason has been an iron-man for the Patriots, appearing in every game for New England except two, and it was Mason who played every offensive snap in the Patriot’s most recent Super Bowl victory over the Rams last February. Like Butker, Mason’s team has shown their appreciation with their checkbooks, inking the former Tech center to a five year, $50M extension prior to kickoff of the 2018 season.

Darren Waller

Waller’s path to success has been rockier than most — despite joining the Ravens with a sixth round selection in the 2015 NFL draft, Waller started just four games with Baltimore, spending extended periods of time suspended for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

Drafted as a wide receiver, Waller converted to tight-end and joined the Raiders last season, appearing in just four games with Oakland as well. This year, Waller’s profile has risen dramatically — not only did the HBO docu-series “Hard Knocks” follow Waller through training camp, the TE has established himself as an offensive weapon for the Raiders. Waller ranks No. 3 in the league in receiving yards among tight-ends this season, bolstered by a strong showing last week where he hauled in 13 of 14 targets for 134 yards in a 34-14 Raiders loss.

Demaryius Thomas

One of Tech’s brightest athletes, Thomas was a first-round pick when he went to the Broncos in the 2010 NFL draft. The former star wideout lived up to his pedigree within his first season — Thomas was named to five consecutive Pro Bowls from 2012 to 2016, and he holds the single-season Broncos records for receiving yards and receiving touchdowns among others. Thomas was traded to Houston mid-season in 2018 and performed well despite splitting targets with star WR Deandre Hopkins. Unfortunately, Thomas tore his Achilles late in the season and was released. Thomas landed with the Patriots earlier this offseason, but was traded to the Jets in September. Thomas managed to take the field in week two for the Jets, recording a single reception in a 23-3 loss.