Butker points to God for his gifts

Harrison Butker, the kicker for the Kansas City Chiefs, spoke to 1,000 men Saturday, March 2, at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Wichita. (Catholic Advance image)

A sell-out crowd isn’t unusual for three-time Super Bowl Champion Harrison Butker. But the crowd on Saturday, March 2, wasn’t there to watch him score for the Kansas City Chiefs, they were there to hear him talk about how his Catholic faith has impacted his life.

Kansas City’s kicker told the 1,000 men attending this year’s Catholic Men’s Conference at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Wichita that he grew up playing soccer and basketball but took up football because he loved the atmosphere of the game.

Figured it out as a senior

After honing his skills at kicking camps he played football for Georgia Tech where his career wasn’t Super Bowl quality. “In my senior year, I figured it out somewhat and got to go to the NFL Combine, impressed some coaches, and made my way to the NFL.”

The Combine is a week-long showcase in February where college football players are tested in front of NFP coaches, general managers, and scouts. Butker was signed on May 5, 2017, by the Carolina Panthers. After being waived by the team, he found himself on the Panther’s practice squad on Sept. 14 of that year.

Actor and director David Henrie also spoke at the men’s conference. (Catholic Advance image)

His life changed

His life would change within two weeks when on Sept. 26 he was signed by the Kansas City Chiefs. In 2019 Butker kicked his way to becoming the NFL’s scoring leader. He has made 197 of 221 attempted field goals in his career, 89.1 percent.

“What motivates me is that God has given me this talent to kick a football in this sport that we love. I’m trying to maximize that talent that he’s given me. I’m not doing it for the pride of the game. I’m not doing it to get more of these…” he said, showing one of his Super Bowl rings, “…these rings that kind of take up my whole face.”

The motivating factor can’t be the ring, it can’t be trying to be immortal, trying to be a legend to never be forgotten, Butker said.

God gives us everything

“Whatever we do, whatever platform we have, it must point back to God because he is the one that gave us anything that we have. He’s given me the talent to perform. He’s given me my height – every ability I have to kick a ball.”

Butker said his work ethic and diligence were gifts of grace. “Everything is grace and we’ve had to cooperate with that grace to wake up early. We’ve had to cooperate with the grace to go work hard in the gym. We’ve had to cooperate with His grace to go out to practice. Everything that I have that is good and that is worthy of praise is from God and we should only be prideful in our Creator.”

Pointing to God

After every field goal, he said, he points to the sky in thanksgiving to God, he said. “There’s an argument to pointing to the sky when you miss because suffering could be a gift from God. But when I think about the talent I’ve been given, I need to do my best to use that talent – like in the parable – to multiply my talents. That’s what motivates me. Not the fame. Not the glory. But just doing my very best with what God’s given me. That talent is different for everyone.”

Some people are meant to be professional athletes, he said, and some are meant to be on the Disney Channel, Butker said, referring to the other speaker of the day, actor Davie Henrie, who is now a director. “Everyone’s got a different calling and we should maximize whatever that is for us and understand that that’s the talent that God has given us.”

God comes first

He keeps that in perspective.

“Prioritizing has been important. If we want to be ordered, God, Jesus Christ, the sacraments, the faith – that has to be number one. What flows from that is our vocation. My vocation is not to be a priest or religious, but to be married, to be in the world, to be fruitful and multiply and pass on the faith to my children.”

When Butker made his career the most important thing in his life, he struggled, he said.

“When you’re struggling, what do you want to do? You want to be prideful and say, ‘You know what? I’m just going to work harder, and that’s going to figure everything out.’ And of course, God wants us to put in all of our effort to being the best we can be. But if we get disordered and we start putting our job above our vocation or our prayer life, that’s pretty obvious that God is not going to be pleased with that.”

Learning to be a better Catholic

After learning to be a better Catholic, a better person of faith, a better husband, and a better father, Butker said, at the end of the day the legacy he’s going to leave is related to: Did I help get my wife to heaven? Did I help my children get to heaven?

But no matter how hard he practices, he said, he will go out on a Sunday and sometimes miss a big kick.
“I think more of a challenge and more of a daunting task for me is being a good husband to my wife, leading her, making sure she feels loved. And then when I’m out practicing seven days a week during the season, she’s the one that’s the primary educator for my children, she’s the one that’s really impacting them more than anything. That’s why I think strong women, strong wives are so important.”

Bishop Carl A. Kemme also celebrated a Mass at the conference.