[Photo courtesy of Georgia Athletics]
Kevin Butler was a two-time All-American and a three-time All-SEC First Team kicker for the Georgia Bulldogs. He left Athens as the school’s all-time leading scorer (since surpassed) and the holder of several other marks.
There was one thing missing, however, from an otherwise impressive college resume: a degree.
Butler was an outstanding student, but he left campus four classes shy of graduating. This fall, 33 years after he last split the uprights at Sanford Stadium, he will receive his diploma from the University of Georgia.
“When I go into meetings the one thing I see on the walls, something that I cannot match, is a diploma,” he said. “I will have my diploma soon, so it will be an even battle from then on.”
Following a 13-season NFL career with the Chicago Bears, with whom he won a Super Bowl as a rookie in 1985, and the Arizona Cardinals, Butler has been involved with a number of business ventures and has been a part of the Bulldogs’ radio team. Still, receiving his degree in business economics will be a cherished moment.
“I went back this past fall and started to knock those classes out and I will get my degree next fall,” he said. “I have one class this semester, I will have one in the summer and one in fall when I will do my thesis and graduate. It will be great feeling.”
Butler, a 2001 College Football Hall of Fame inductee, enjoys being a student at 54 and has developed much admiration for today’s student-athletes. Linebacker Reggie Carter and a member of the woman’s soccer team are among his classmates and he enjoys their energy and passion.
“I am definitely the oldest in the class,” he said while laughing at the reality of being 30-plus years the senior of most other students. “It is rewarding and I really appreciate the professors and the students. I admire what these kids do nowadays. For student-athletes it is probably more competitive on and off the field. A lot of people see only one side to these student-athletes. It is neat being around these kids.”
Being a student last fall enabled Butler to serve as an undergraduate coach on Kirby Smart’s staff working with the kickers, punters and long-snappers. He helped develop kicker Rodrigo Blankenship into becoming a member of the FWAA Freshman All-American Team.
Butler, who would like to serve the team in some capacity again next season, has remained connected with the program the past eight years through his work with the radio network. Last season he could be heard doing pregame, postgame and a two-hour Sunday show called the Bulldog Brunch.
“It has been a lot of fun to be involved at Georgia where I had such a good career and made a lot of great relationships,” he said.
Butler, who capped his rookie NFL season by booting three field goals in the Bears’ rout of New England in Super Bowl XX and totaled 1,208 career points, sixth all-time among kickers when he retired following the 1997 season, has been with UgMO Technologies for the past seven years. He serves as the Pennsylvania-based company’s vice president of sales for the eastern half of the U.S.
The firm develops wireless soil sensors helping golf courses, parks and recreation departments, school systems and other entities monitor the level of moisture in the ground as a means of saving water and money. Among UgMO’s clients is the famed Merion Golf Club, which is close to the company’s headquarters outside Philadelphia.
“We are the only company in America that develops wireless soil sensors,” said Butler. “What these sensors do is they can control any irrigation system to only water what is needed at the root system so we can set moisture levels, understand the capacity of the soil and know where it holds water.”
Butler also involved with National Collegiate Sports Archives. The company currently has three properties, Georgia, Auburn and Florida with Alabama currently in production. Fans can download apps allowing them to view great football moments dating back decades as well condensed games, interviews and other content.
“I think we are the only place you can go to see every one of Herschel Walker’s touchdowns or every one of Bo Jackson’s touchdowns,” he said.
The Duluth, Ga. resident has been married to Cathy for 32 years and is the father of three, daughters Katie Scarlett and Kylie Savannah and son Drew. The middle child, Drew, was an All-American at Georgia and winner of the 2009 Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter. He earned numerous accolades for his work in the classroom and community before embarking on his own career in the NFL where he has played four seasons, the last three with Arizona.
Much of what Drew, who did not play football until the tenth grade, has accomplished as an individual and as a professional is a byproduct of his father’s unwavering support.
“I think the coolest thing about my dad is that he is truly my best friend,” said Drew, who lives in Chandler, Ariz. with his wife Jacqui. “With the experience that he has, not only what he did in college and the NFL, I know I can turn to my dad for any type of advice. I am very lucky to have that type of relationship with my dad and I never take it for granted.”
His father has never taken for granted what he learned from football. In fact, many of the intangibles he took from the game are consistently applied no matter his line of work. That is especially the case when he is on speaking engagements, which he frequently does in Chicago and Georgia.
“I like to understand what their culture is as a business because I think football teaches you how to deal with different cultures and different individuals,” he said of groups he speaks to. “You have to have belief in yourself and, certainly as a kicker, I had to work hard and I had to work by myself a lot. I had to gain confidence in myself before other people could gain confidence in me. I find that very true in business. I find that people who are dedicated to their business want to be the best that they can be for not only themselves, but for the business. Those people are going to be successful in whatever they do. I try to really preach that and the one thing football taught me was to respect yourself so that others will respect you also.”
Come the fall Butler will have one other to talk about: obtaining his degree.