By David Healy (Delta Democrat-Times)
GREENVILLE – Father Aaron Williams of St. Joseph Catholic Church said he was not nervous at all as he watched his good friend, Harrison Butker, line up to kick a 58-yard field goal in overtime on Sept. 20 against the San Diego Chargers.
“I know Harrison’s range, and I know that it is a lot farther than that,” Father Williams said. “And each of those do-over kicks were good practice for him.
Father Williams was right not to worry. Butker’s kick, his second made 58 yarder in the game, sailed right through the uprights to give the defending Super Champion Kansas City Chiefs their second win to open the season.
After the game, the two texted each other.
Father Williams — “Can’t get over it. Charger coaches trying to throw you off with those time outs. You were just getting started. Haha”
Butker — “Don’t play with me! Lol, just added fuel to the fire.”
Father Williams — “I wasn’t even worried.”
Father Williams’s friendship with Butker began when Father Williams was a seminary student in New Orleans. Butker was the place kicker for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at the time and was in New Orleans to visit their mutual friend, Grant Aasen, who was the Georgia Tech punter.
Butker and Williams struck up a quick friendship, based largely on Butker’s hunger to learn more about the Catholic faith.
“We immediately hit it off with our shared interest in liturgy,” Butker said. “From there he has grown close with my family and me. We are able to discuss difficult subjects pertaining to the faith. He has helped me understand the faith more fully, including stuff like Canon Law, Church Tradition, Doctrine, and Scripture. “It is important to use our priests as resources to be better husbands and fathers, and ultimately challenge us to be saints.”
Said Father Williams, “Harrison is very Catholic, and we had a lot of conversations about the church. We had many great conversations over the phone, and then his wife, Isabelle, invited me to come up to a game. And we hit it off. They are both my age, and they are a great couple.”
Butker is an altar server at his local parish in Kansas City and is in charge of the younger altar servers.
“A lot of our early conversations were about Mass and how you serve Mass, and I would get videos from him showing his feet walking, and he would ask me, ‘Am I walking at the right angle here?’,” Father Williams recalled. “It was very exact, and I would joke with him that ‘You don’t have to watch film after mass to see if you played well.”
Father Williams has visited Butker many times once he became a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. Last season, he was in attendance for five games.
“The coolest experience was I was at the AFC Championship this past year, and we all went out to the field because I was with the family group,” Father Williams said. “When I am at the games, I always dress as a priest. Harrison likes me to dress as a priest when I go to games, and there were like random players who would come up and grab me and pick me up and say, ‘Father, I am so happy that you came to our game. So that was a cool experience for me.’”
While Father Williams was not a football fan before meeting Butker, he said he now loves watching the sport, especially at the high school level. Father Williams is on the sidelines of every St. Joseph football game, donning his No. 33 St. Joseph jersey. He chose No. 33 because that is the number of years Jesus Christ lived on the earth.
“I did not know anything about football, but when you sit next to Harrison’s dad at the games, he teaches you everything that you need to know in football. Now, I can sit there and watch his form and know what is going on. And during football practice everyday (at St. Joseph), after stretching I will go off and watch the kickers. I have never kicked myself, and I can look at them and know when they are doing something wrong. I may not be able to communicate that effectively, but I can tell.”
The relationship between Father Williams and Butker continues to be one of mutual admiration.
“I admire Harrison because he is an extremely sucessful and talented athlete, and he is probably one of the best kickers out there. And the priority for him is his faith first, and then his family and then football,” Father Williams said.
Said Butker, “My faith is the most important thing in my life, followed by my vocation as a husband and father. Football is my job, it’s what I love to do.
But at the end of the day, my main concern is not on how good of a football player I am, but on how well I followed God’s will for my life.”