Super Bowl-winning Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker is a champion on the field and in the spiritual life, where he says he wants nothing less than to become a saint. 

“If we want to be saints, we have to die to ourselves,” Butker told CNA in an interview Wednesday.  

During his team’s stunning Feb. 12 Super Bowl victory against the Philadelphia Eagles, players were slipping all over the field, leading many to change their cleats during the competition. Butker experienced a slip himself, but of a different sort.

Butker’s scapular made a timely appearance as it slipped out of his jersey while more than 100 million fans across the globe watched him line up for a 27-yard field goal attempt with 11 seconds left on the clock in a tie game. 

“I think that was our Blessed Mother asking for the spotlight to be shown on her and reminding me that all the glory goes to God and to her,” Butker said. That kick sailed through the goal posts, clinching the game for the Chiefs.

The scapular, which is made up of two pieces of brown wool and is worn hanging across one’s chest and back, is a sacramental from the Carmelite tradition that anyone can wear as a sign of their consecration to Mary.

It wasn’t until the 2022-2023 season that Butker began wearing his scapular 24/7, after realizing he needed to take a leap of faith and entrust himself to Mary at all times through the devotion.

Picking it up in college, Butker’s scapular has sparked conversations about his Catholic faith within the Chiefs’ locker room, with some players asking: “What is that brown necklace you’re wearing?”

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Butker said he’s had “some really good conversations” in the locker room and his scapular has given him opportunities to witness to the power of devotion to Mary and the Catholic faith.

He said it’s important for Catholics to be open about their faith in their jobs even if it makes them appear “weird” or “different.”

“We can’t be ashamed of our faith because, if we are Catholic, we know of all the fruits that Our Lord has given to us. And if we hoard those fruits, and we don’t open up those fruits to those that are around us, especially in the workplace, where God wants us to evangelize, then I think we’re doing a disservice to Our Lord. And we’re not being charitable with our time in sharing the Gospel with those around us,” he said.

Arguably the best-known Catholic who is active in the National Football League, it’s clear that Butker takes his faith very seriously, but many may be surprised to learn that this Super Bowl winning season was his biggest trial of faith yet. 

“I’ve been around a 90% field goal kicker my entire career,” Butker said, adding that this season “I was missing a lot of kicks. So it was the first time I felt like a lot of people had a lot of negative things to say about me.” 

Additionally, in the first game of the season — on the same slippery field at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, where he would eventually kick the game-winning field goal in the Super Bowl — Butker took a fall on a kickoff and suffered a devastating ankle sprain, sidelining him for weeks.

If Butker were to have it his own way, he’d stay healthy and have every ball he kicks go through the uprights. 

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“But I always say God’s will is better than my own will.”

God certainly had a plan for Butker, and that plan involved the prayers of a member of the College of Cardinals watching the game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.

Not knowing if his sprained ankle would be healed in time to play, Butker invited Cardinal Raymond Burke, archbishop emeritus of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, who is a friend and role model of his, to a home game against the Buffalo Bills. 

Crediting God’s providence, Butker returned to the field that same week. He then broke both a personal and a Chiefs’ record by kicking an 62-yard field goal, something he attributes in part to Burke's prayers. 

Burke congratulated Butker after the game and explained why he wanted the cardinal there that night. 

“The holiness of this man and the amount of virtue that he has, and the amount of insight into the spiritual life is unbelievable. And I want to take advantage of as many opportunities as I get to be around him, because I want people around me that are going to push me to be a saint to be better,” he said.

Butker told CNA he is being “intentional” with who he spends time with. 

“And at the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves, is this person pushing us to be a saint and to be closer to God?” If the answer is “no,” Butker said, then the friendship doesn’t have to be cut off, but it’s important to find other friends who will “push us to grow.”

“Iron sharpens iron,” he added.

Butker’s field goal percentage in the 2022-2023 season fell to 75%, much lower than what he consistently hits each season as one of the best kickers in the league. In fact, he said that this season presented him with “the most suffering” and “the most adversity” that he’s had to face. He said he’s thankful for it because it pushed him to rely on God and grow in humility.

“When you are suffering, how do you get through it? You can only get through it by relying on that foundation, which is Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament,” he said.

“So it’s funny, this was the most suffering, the most adversity I’ve faced, but I am also the most thankful. And I’m just excited for what God has in store for my life,” he said.