Chiefs rookie kicker Harrison Butker wins AFC special teams award
From a first impression standpoint, Harrison Butker’s season is unfolding a bit like Kareem Hunt’s.
On his first rushing attempt as an NFL player, Hunt fumbled.
On his first field-goal attempt as an NFL player, Butker missed.
Hunt hasn’t fumbled since and now leads the league in rushing.
Butker hasn’t missed a field goal since his first. His five field goals in the Chiefs’ 29-19 victory over the Broncos on Monday give him 18 straight and earned him AFC special teams player of the week honors.
Andy Reid made the announcement in a team meeting Wednesday morning.
“It was a surprise to me,” Butker said. “It’s nice to get recognized, the whole operation, really.”
That’s true. Holder Dustin Colquitt and long snapper James Winchester and the rest of the Chiefs’ placekicking unit have a piece of this. Butker finishes the job and is off to a remarkable start as a pro.
He’s chasing the team record of 22 straight field goals set by Pete Stoyanovich spanning the 1997 and 1998 seasons, and bearing down on the team’s record of 25 field goals by a rookie, set by the team’s previous two kickers, Ryan Succop in 2009 and Cairo Santos in 2014.
Santos is the most accurate Chiefs kicker with at least 100 attempts, having made 84.8 percent, and he set a team record with seven field goals in a game two seasons ago.
But after re-injuring his groin in this season’s third game, at the Los Angeles Chargers, Santos was waived and took an injury settlement. He’s an injured free agent and can sign with any team when he gets healthy.
The Chiefs had worked with another kicker, Sam Ficken, during the preseason as Santos was dealing with the injury.
But when the call was made to replace Santos, it went to Butker, a rookie from Georgia Tech who had lost out on the starting job for the Carolina Panthers and was a member of that team’s practice squad.
Butker, a seventh-round selection in April, was on the Chiefs’ radar during the draft. General manager Brett Veach and special teams coach Dave Toub had him ranked as the draft’s top kicker.
“They loved the kid,” Reid said. “They saw a big kid with a strong leg and they felt like he had good accuracy and would fit in well. He’s done all that, probably even more what they bragged on him about.”
Not that the college-to-NFL jump isn’t challenging enough, but Butker has been asked to perform in prime time in three of his five games. His two best efforts — he has twice gone 5 for 5 — came in evening games at Houston and against the Broncos.
This is all new territory for Butker. His best year at Georgia Tech came when he was a senior and made 15 of 17 field goals. He’s already surpassed both marks with eight NFL games remaining. Additionally, 27 of his 35 kickoffs have been touchbacks.
“It does help having so many attempts in a game and multiple kicks every single game,” Butker said. “It helps building up your confidence. Going into the next game I can look back at what I’ve done and that gives me confidence that I can do this.”
As well as anybody in the NFL last week.