Behind every great golfer is a reliable caddy. In the same vein, every NFL kicker needs a placeholder that he can trust.
For Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker, that role is suddenly vacant. Former Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt has held for Butker on every field goal since he joined the Chiefs early in the 2017 season — but he is now a free agent after being released in late April.
“Dustin was definitely a leader when I got to the Chiefs.” Butker said to reporters. “He was able to guide me and you talked about the caddy to golfer relationship. I’d go out there on really windy days and sometimes I’d have an awful warmup off of the sticks and then Dustin would make some changes with the hold and I’d be kicking the ball straight and making them.”
Butker will miss the 15-year veteran and one of the most accomplished punters of the generation — but he recognizes the opportunity it presents for himself. After being the pupil to Colquitt’s teaching for almost three seasons, it’s now the 24-year-old Butker who must become the top voice in the specialist room.
“Now that Dustin’s no longer here unfortunately, I’m kind of the leader and I’m the one teaching them about the holding stuff,” Butker admitted. “Dustin was able to share a ton of information with me and now kind of going on year four I’m gonna have to be the leader now and help those guys out.”
Obviously, there is a ton of football knowledge that Butker picked up on from Colquitt — but he learned about methods of leadership as well.
“He was definitely the jokester on the team,” Butker recalled. “Even though he was 34, 35, 36 years old, 15 years in the league he was able to keep a really good mood in the locker room. Especially for me when I got here in 2017 as a rookie I was super serious, very focused. Which I’m glad that’s part of my personality, but away from the field he was able to get me to relax a little bit and I think that was awesome mentally for me.”
As for replacing the all-time Chiefs great, the coaching staff has narrowed it down to two newcomers this offseason: second-year punter Tyler Newsome and undrafted rookie punter Tommy Townsend. While it’s essential that the on-field chemistry is flawless, Butker understands that it starts by building a relationship off the field.
“We’ve been getting together six days a week, and number one, building that relationship, building the bond because you have to be close.” Butker declared. “You’re going to be kicking game winning kicks together and you have to be able to trust the other person.”
The kicker continued on about his work with the candidates for punter.
“From there, just trying to figure out the communication for the ball lean, for the laces, for how their hand is out when they call for the ball from James [Winchester]. There’s just so many small things that you have to perfect. There are so many guys that can do my job, that can hold the ball but how well can you do it? Can you do it at an elite level?”
Butker has been as good as anyone could have expected at the time he was signed in 2017. Last season, Butker led the NFL in field goals made. He was also the only full-time kicker to be perfect from between 40 to 49 yards in 2019.
The loss of his usual placeholder can’t be overstated though. The relationship built between the two positions can make both players better in their roles — but it can also help each individual grow as people.
“He’s got five kids and I loved going over to his house and seeing how he interacted with his kids and he’s a great father.” Butker said of Colquitt. “Now I’m a husband and father as well so I was able to learn a ton from him. He was a big role model for me in that locker room to see how an NFL player should conduct himself on and off the field.”
As sad as it is to see Colquitt go, it sounds like he set the foundation for Butker to become the next long-time Chiefs specialist.