Drew Butler Makes Pittsburgh Steelers Final Roster
|Drew Butler Rookie Free Agent With The Pittsburgh Steelers|
It has been said that playing a professional sport is not easy. Playing in the NFL is a feat not many can claim to have accomplished, and being one of 253 players selected in the NFL Draft is even more rare. It shows the NFL teams investment and confidence in the player's ability to perform as well as his character.
Teams expect their draft picks to challenge incumbent starters and show why they were chosen over the thousands of other college football players around the country. It's never easy, but being a draft pick can take an awful lot of weight off ones shoulders plus put some good money in their pockets. However, their is no guarantee of making an NFL roster just because you're drafted.
The other way to make an NFL roster is to be an undrafted free agent. There are times when free agents come in and make an immediate impact on the team, but generally speaking most are used to fill roster spots and are in training camp to give looks to first and second string veteran players. More often than not, kickers, punters and snappers are forced to make their case as a free agent, and it can be a tough and difficult road.
In 2009, redshirt sophomore Drew Butler was vying for the starting punter position at the University of Georgia. Upon being named the starter, Drew stormed through the season averaging a career high 48 yards while sending 24 punts over 50 yards. His performances garnered him the 2009 Ray Guy Award as the nations top collegiate punter.
Drew continued his dominance earning countless awards such as being an All-American, an All-Conference player, an Academic All-American and a team captain. Drew topped his storied career off being invited to the 2012 Senior Bowl and NFL Combine.
During the 2012 NFL Combine, Drew had a excellent workout and from my understanding, very impressive interviews with NFL Coaches and Scouts. Despite having one of the most prolific punting careers in college football as well as great work ethic and brains to boot, Drew's phone never rang during the 2012 NFL Draft.
The waiting game began, but it didn't take long. The phone began to ring soon after the draft, and Drew along with his family and agent Derek Gilmore decided that Pittsburgh was the best place for him. I told Drew that was a great choice. Starter Daniel Sepulveda had been released due to his unfortunate knee injuries and the Steelers were looking for the next punter to take over the starting role.
|Drew Butler (Pittsburgh Steelers) in 2012 Training Camp|
As Drew worked through mini-camp and training camp, he was awarded playing time during the preseason and showed why he was the best candidate for the job. During the final cuts, Drew was told that he had made the team and will be the starting punter in week 1 against the Denver Broncos.
His dream was fulfilled, and he was going to be an NFL punter and will finally play on Sundays. However, as a NFL Rookie he still needs to prove everyday and every game why he still belongs. The NFL is a tough league to sustain a career as a coach and player, but I have a feeling Drew is very familiar with that and he will surely love living his dream.
'A Specialist's Path To PRO Football'
Here is Drew Butler's Path
|In 1992 Coach Zauner Coaching Kevin Butler As Kicking Consultant |
For Chicago Bears Head Coach Mike Ditka
Upon finishing my college coaching career, I decided to open up my own consulting business in the early 90's. During this time, several Hall of Fame NFL Head Coaches used my kicking consulting services. The list included: Dick Vermeil, Dan Reeves, Marty Schottenheimer, Tom Flores, George Seifert and Mike Ditka. When Coach Ditka brought me into Chicago to work with their special teams coach and specialists, the punter was Chris Gardocki and the kicker was Kevin Butler. Kevin was an excellent kicker especially while kicking in the cold and windy city of Chicago at Soldier Field. Kevin and I got along very well and established a lasting friendship that we even maintained during the years he was playing for the Chicago Bears and I was coaching for the Minnesota Vikings.
In March of 2009, Kevin first brought his son Drew to Phoenix, Arizona for his first One on One Punting Lesson. Drew was a redshirt sophomore at the time and was working to be the team's starting punter. Kevin called me because he wanted another set of eyes to look at Drew, so they decided to fly to Phoenix for my evaluation and opinion.
Kevin also stated that coaching your own son is not the easiest task as a father. These are basically the same comments I received from all-time kicking greats Gary Anderson and Jeff Feagles when they also brought their sons to Phoenix for One on One Kicking and Punting Lessons. Gary kicked for 24 years and Jeff punted for 22 Years in the NFL.
|Kevin Butler Brings Son Drew Butler To Scottsdale, Arizona in March of 2009|
For His First One on One Punting Lesson
After just 3 days of lessons, I looked at Drew and said, "If you continue to stay focused on everything we work on during our punting lessons, I believe in four years you will be playing football on Sundays like your dad." Drew was speechless as his jaw dropped. After pausing a moment, he gathered his thoughts and said, "Coach, I just want to be the starting punter at Georgia right now".
Drew showed to me that he had talent and potential, but there were a few punting fundamentals that he needed to work on to become a better all-around and consistent punter. I felt that Drew needed to first change his grip and drop because he had too many nose up drops, and secondly he needed to punt up and through the ball better. Drew had what I call a jack knife crunch.
I introduced Drew, as I do all specialists, to what I call Coach Zauner's 'Natural Style of Kicking and Punting'. Drew loved it, embraced it, and has worked very hard to be very successful with it.
|Drew Butler (U. of Georgia) Wins 2009 Ray Guy Award|
Not only did Drew win the starting job for the Georgia Bulldogs, he won the 2009 Ray Guy Award! This honor is given to the nations top collegiate punter each year. Drew had the highest punting average in the country with 48.1 yards per punt, and had the highest NCAA average since 2001. Not only was he an All-American punter, he was also named to the to the SEC Athletic Director's Honor Roll as well as Georgia's Dean's List.
|Kevin Butler (Chicago Bears) and Jeff Feagles (New York Giants)|
Bring Their Sons Drew and CJ To Scottsdale, Arizona For One on One Punting Lessons
In July of 2009, Drew attended my PRO Development Camp at Macalester College in Minnesota, and for the next two years he continued coming to Arizona and Milwaukee during spring and summertime attending One on One Punting Lessons. In each session, it was evident that he was maturing physically and mentally while maintaining his punting techniques to back up his reputation as one of the nation's top college punters.
Drew was improving every year. Not only as an open field punter but directionally and was starting to perfect the Aussie drop punt technique in pooch punt territory. He had become an excellent holder and a valuable asset to his team. Drew has been coached by me on technique but more importantly by his father on how to be a 'Pros Pro'.
|Coach Zauner Attends Drew Butler's Last Game As A Georgia Bull Dog|
Drew had an outstanding college career; Michelle and I were honored to be invited to the University of Georgia's Senior Day. It was a very heartwarming event and I was proud to be there for his last home game where he also showed a good display on the field.
As I mentioned earlier, Drew was an Academic All-American, and knowing that football is not the only path in life can relieve a lot of pressure while on the gridiron. He was playing his cards right and knew that he had the ability to give the NFL a shot, and if things didn't work out he could easily pursue a different career.
One of Drew's secret weapons was his 'master plan'. Due to his redshirt giving him an extra year enrolled in school, he was able to play his senior season at Georgia while working on finishing his Master's Degree. After Drew's last college football game, The Outback Bowl, he moved to the Phoenix area to start offseason training similar to several other high profile college seniors preparing for the NFL Combine and Draft. While Drew was training during January and February on his punting technique, he continued to gain confidence and improve each day. I told Drew that what separates an NFL punter from a great college punter is not always leg strength or how far you can hit a ball, but its about consistency and eliminating bad days, not just bad punts. Drew understood that concept and each session was better than the last.
Drew's 'master plan' was working out perfectly.
After a couple of weeks of One on One Punting Lessons in January Drew headed to Mobile, Alabama for the 2012 Senior Bowl Game, and I was right behind him.
|Coach Zauner With Drew Butler and Randy Bullock at 2012 Senior Bowl|
Every year in January, I attend the Senior Bowl and have for quite some time now. It's a time when I get to catch up with many of my old NFL coaching friends, network with NFL Special Teams Coordinators and Head Coaches, and evaluate the new draft class of kicking specialists. As a kicking coach this year's 2012 Senior Bowl was very special. Drew along with two other long time One on One Students, Randy Bullock (Texas A & M) and Brad Nortman (University of Wisconsin), were also invited.
I got to watch all three young men practice and spent some quality time with them. They each had a good week and performed well in the game which helped to improve their draft stock.
|Drew Butler (Steelers), Randy Bullock (Texans) and Brad Nortman (Panthers)|
|Drew Butler (Georgia & Steelers) and Randy Bullock (Texas A & M and Texans)|
After the Senior Bowl Game, Drew headed back to Phoenix for more punting lessons to prepare for the NFL Combine. Several other specialist's also arrived for One on One Kicking, Punting and Snapping Lessons and NFL Combine training. They included Randy Bullock (Texans), Brad Nortman (Panthers), Carson Wiggs (Seahawks), Kyle Martens (Chargers), and Beau Brinkley (Titans).
My plan was to create an environment in Phoenix during January and February for the best kicking specialists to train and prepare for the NFL combine. February was a busy month, not only for me but also for Drew. Drew got extra work in catching punt snaps from snappers and holding for various kickers.
Drew and the other kicking specialists took a short hiatus to visit home only to turn around and immediately fly to Indianapolis for the NFL Combine in late February.
|Drew Butler at 2012 NFL Combine in February (Left to Right)|
Randy Bullock, Drew Butler, Coach, Kyle Martens, Carson Wiggs & Brad Nortman
(All Coach Zauner One on One Students)
In addition to traveling to the Senior Bowl each year, I have also attend the NFL Combine to continue evaluating and networking. Like the Senior Bowl, the NFL Combine was very special to me this year as five of my specialist's were showcasing their talents in Indy.
The NFL Combine can be very overwhelming for even the most experienced and high profile football players in the country. Each and every individual is constantly under a microscope and the intensity can make or break a player in just the few days they are there. Not only are coaches looking at ability and talent on the field, but each player is also put through an interview process that can be long and tedious. NFL Teams want to know just about everything about you whether it's your family, girlfriend/wife, school, or your life story. It is a very long and intense process to say the least.
Drew passed the NFL combine tests with flying colors. Not only did Drew perform well on the field, but what I heard from several NFL Special Teams Coordinators he also interviewed extremely well.
Drew's dad is familiar with how the NFL works, he did a very good job of preparing Drew of what to expect and how to keep a calm demeanor. Drew had no problem answering questions and saying all the right things.
|Drew Butler Trains For Two Months in Phoenix, AZ For 2012 NFL Combine|
Even after competing at the NFL Combine, Drew knew that his training wasn't even close to being over. He still had Georgia's Pro Day and numerous private workouts with NFL Special Teams Coordinators. Drew continued punting for another four days in Phoenix to help him prepare for his Pro Day back in Georgia. A true professional never quits training, and if you want to play in the NFL you have to have that mentality.
2012 NFL Draft in April - Drew Signs Free Agent Contract With Steelers
When everything had taken place and the NFL Draft was about to start, Drew was feeling confident about his chances of being selected in one of the later rounds because of his feedback he had received from workouts and interviews with NFL Coaches. Despite these positives, it is still the NFL Draft and anything can happen. Teams have a limited number of draft picks and may not want to spend them on a kicking specialist.
As the later rounds came and went, Drew received no phone call. He was a little let down but was prepared for that possibility, and was looking forward to the next step, which was working to get signed as an undrafted free agent .
I would also like to note that during this process I mentioned to Drew that at times it is not always in your best interests to be drafted. By signing a free agent contract, you have more flexibility in your decision on where to play and make the best possibility to make the final roster. It doesn't matter whether your drafted or not, you still have to beat somebody out and Drew was up for the challenge.
Shortly after the draft had ended, Drew and his agent, Derek Gilmore, were in contact with several teams about the possibility of signing a contract. After discussions had taken place, they decided that Pittsburgh was the best place to start his career. The Steelers had said he would compete with veteran punter Jeremy Kapinos for the starting position. I felt Drew and his agent made the right choice.
|Drew Butler (Steelers) Works With Kyle Wojta (U. of Wisconsin)|
Drew Prepares For First Training Camp in July in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
After Drew completed his May and June mini-camps, he decided to take another One on One Punting Lesson in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to further prepare himself for training camp. Like previous summers, Drew had always finished his training in Milwaukee and this year was no different.
When Drew returned to Pittsburgh, training camp started and it was time to shine. Due to an injury to Kapinos, Drew handled the punting duties for the first preseason game, and while it wasn't his best performance he showed that he was able to handle the pressures and still punted well. After it was all said and done, Drew started every preseason game, made the final roster cuts, and was named as the teams starting punter. He had finally done it, he was living his dream of finally playing on Sunday's.
Drew was very well aware of what it would take to complete 'A Specialist's Path to PRO Football', and he was willing to make the sacrifices to take that path. I always say, "you should plan your work and work your plan", and Drew worked it to perfection. Yes, without the people around him, it would have been much tougher, but Drew's planning, determination, work ethic, personality, and passion have taken him to where he is today.
Drew's parents Kevin and Kathy could not have raised a better son. By giving Drew their undying love and support in anything that he put his mind to, they showed their will for him to succeed and grow into the person he is today. They have so much to be proud of and I am honored to consider their family close friends.
|Drew Butler Punts Against New York Jets in Week Two|
|Drew Working Handoff / Handdown Drop|
Good luck to Drew and his Pittsburgh Steeler teammates and I hope to see you play again in person soon!
|Drew's Proud Parents, Kevin and Kathy Butler|
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