The Kansas City Chiefs are Super Bowl champions for the second time in four seasons, and a significant aspect of the story is quarterback Patrick Mahomes overcoming a high-ankle sprain to lead the Chiefs to postseason victories over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles.
But a less-discussed player with the same ailment was Harrison Butker, who suffered his high-ankle sprain during Week 1 — and in the same place the season ended: State Farm Stadium in Glendale. Butker’s ankle issue made 2022 the most trying season of his six-year career, but he fought through the pain to make game-winning kicks in the AFC Championship and Super Bowl LVII.
“He’s a great kid,” said head coach Andy Reid of Butker. “The only reason he had problems was because of the high-ankle sprain. That’s rough on a kicker — especially on that plant leg. And so it was a matter of just getting through that — the tweaks at that thing presents you really for the rest of the season for when he was hurt.
“But he’s dirty tough, and I’m not going to say for a kicker. He’s a tough kid. Normally, the kickers aren’t the toughest guys. This one here? He’s a tough nut, man.”
Butker’s Super Bowl experience was, in a way, a microcosm of his season. During his warmup, he mentioned he did not feel good; then he missed a field goal in the first quarter when the game was tied at 7.
He tried to zone in on his one-kick-at-a-time mentality, doing all he could to prevent the doubts from creeping in.
“I really tried to focus on the process,” said Butker, “but those thoughts go through your head all the time. You get asked by media the whole week leading up to it about the game-winning kick, all those things. I try to just focus on one kick and focus in on the process.”
Butker straightened out his kicks, putting him in a position to make the four extra points to follow. Those kicks gave him the confidence to lock in on the 27-yard game-winner.
“You just got to go out and focus on what you can control — and I kind of had the easy job there,” said Butker. “The offensive line did a great job blocking. Great snap, great hold — and thankfully, that ball went through. All glory to God.”
Butker said that getting to hit the game-winning kick in a Super Bowl is what you hope for — and dream about — as a kicker.
“It’s crazy to think that that’s now happened,” said Butker. “What is it — a walk-off game-winner? I don’t know what it is when there’s time left on the clock. It’s an amazing feeling. I’m just so happy now to be with the Chiefs organization with great leaders — and Patrick, [who] did a great job leading us to this victory.”