Butker, a Decatur resident, will cap off his strong freshman season in his first bowl game as the Yellow Jackets take on Ole Miss in the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn. Monday at 3:30 p.m.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Butker said. “I grew up watching college bowl games, the most exciting ones, and we have a really great matchup against Ole Miss in Nashville and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a great venue and it’s a great opportunity to show how we match up with another SEC team.”
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Butker immediately took the starting kicker job at Tech, beating senior and returning starter David Scully. Butker certainly has not disappointed, converting 9 of 13 field goal attempts and 51 of 52 point-after conversions as well as leading the team in scoring with 78 points.
Butker kicked 49-yard field goals in a couple of games — a 38-14 victory over Duke Sept. 14 and a 17-10 win over Virginia Tech Sept. 26 — and contributed to the Yellow Jackets’ strong effort in a 41-34 loss to archrival Georgia Nov. 30 with field goals of 37 and 22 yards.
He has also accumulated 4,274 yards on 68 kickoffs for a 62.9 yard-per-kickoff average, with 28 touchbacks to his credit.
“It’s gone pretty well,” Butker said. “I think I can definitely improve for the next season. I need to take away some of those careless mistakes and fine tune my technique, so I’m more accurate for the next season. But, I’m pretty satisfied with how it’s going.”
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said he is pleased with Butker’s performance in his first college season.
“Harrison has done a solid job for us this year and he’s got a really bright future,” Johnson said in a statement. “He’s certainly shown he has a very strong leg and we’ve been better on kickoffs this season than in previous years. We feel good about where Harrison is at right now and again, he has a chance to be one of the better kickers in the ACC.”
Westminster assistant coach Joe Sturniolo, who was Butker’s position coach during his high school career, has seen his protégé in action at Georgia Tech and has been impressed with what he has witnessed.
“For the most part, his field goals have been pretty good,” Sturniolo said. “He pulled a couple here and there and he knows exactly why and how. His kickoffs, he’s put two out of bounds this year. Otherwise, he’s putting it exactly where his special teams coach is asking him to put it.”
Butker said his adjustment to the next level has been relatively smooth, though he said he had to get used to the longer length of college games.
“I think the biggest adjustment was the first game of the season — I didn’t realize how long a college football game was. In high school — it’s two hours, I think. But in college, it’s pushing three hours, 3½ hours, so it’s mainly trying to maintain my leg strength during the game, kicking in the net [on the sidelines], warming up all the time and my leg gets tired. But, I’ve gotten better with that as the season has gone along.”
Butker established himself as one of the best high school kickers in the nation during his three-year career at Westminster, where he made 28 of 38 field goal attempts and converted 41 of 43 point-after kicks from 2010 to ’12.
“I attribute the person that I am to Westminster,” Butker said. “I learned a lot about character and discipline. They did a great job of supporting me and getting my name out.”