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Super Bowl star talks ‘faith, family, and football’ at commencement

Harrison Butker football

Tom Hoopes

Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker pauses to smile at his wife after his emotional “Thank you” to her during his commencement address at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, May 11, 2024.

Tom Hoopes - published on 05/13/24

"Being locked in with your vocation and staying in your lane is going to be the surest way for you to find true happiness and peace in this life"

Harrison Butker, the Super Bowl winning kicker for the Kansas City Chiefs, was the commencement speaker at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, on May 11.

He had a lot to say about politics, liturgy, and Church governance, but he repeatedly pointed out that it was important that people “stay in your lane.” What is Butker’s lane? “Faith, family and football … in that order,” is how he put it on campus previously. 

Thoughts he shared about those three topics were truly the highlights of his remarks.

“Faith” means your state in life, he said.

After dwelling on things he found troublesome in the Church and in the world, Butker offered a strong antidote. 

He said there were “great examples right here on this very campus who will keep the light of Christ burning bright for generations to come.”

At his commencement address last year at Georgia Tech, he told seniors to get married and have children. To the Catholic students in the Kansas City, Kansas, archdiocese he added a few more vocations.

“Being locked in with your vocation and staying in your lane is going to be the surest way for you to find true happiness and peace in this life,” he said. “It is essential that we focus on our own state in life, whether that be as a layperson, a priest, or religious, ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2024.” 

And he had plenty of advice for fellow laypeople.

“Family” was important for everyone, he said.

He congratulated the women present for “an amazing accomplishment,” saying, “You should be proud of all that you have achieved to this point in your young lives.”

Family is a crucial part of every lay person’s story, he added.

“Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world,” he said. “But I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world.” 

On the day before Mother’s Day, he said, “I can tell you that my beautiful wife Isabelle would be the first to say that her life truly started when she began living her vocation as a wife and as a mother. I’m on this stage today able to be the man I am because I have a wife who leans into her vocation.”

Then, he had to choke back tears to finish when he added: “I’m beyond blessed with the many talents God has given me. But it cannot be overstated that all of my success is made possible because the girl I met in class back in middle school would convert to the faith, become my wife, and embrace one of the most important titles of all: homemaker.”

The two attended Georgia Tech together. Butker said, “Isabelle’s dream of having a career might not have come through. But if you ask her today if she has any regrets on her decision, she would laugh out loud without hesitation and say, ‘Heck no!’”

“Family” was key for the men in the audience, too, he said.

“I have leaned into my vocation as a husband and as a father,” he said. “What plagues our society today is the lie that has been told that men are not necessary in the home or in our communities.”

He acknowledged that men who have abandoned families and responsibilities have helped create this misunderstanding. 

“Never settle for what is easy,” he said. “You might have a talent that you don’t necessarily enjoy, but if it glorifies God, maybe you should lean into that, over something that you might think suits you better. I speak from experience as an introvert who now finds myself as an amateur public speaker and an entrepreneur — something I never thought I’d be when I received my industrial engineering degree.”

Last, “football” came up several times in his speech.

Butker’s kicking records were read out in his introduction: Longest Chiefs field goal, longest Super Bowl field goal, the high scorer in the most recent Super Goal and the game-winning field goal in the one before that.

Butker acknowledged several times that it is only his football prowess that has gained him a platform. 

Regarding his honorary degree and his football nickname, he said, “I think I need to tell them to stop calling me ‘Butt-kicker’ and say ‘Dr. Butker’!”

He mentioned his NFL job again when he was speaking about his wife. “She is the one who ensures I never let football or my business become a distraction from being a husband and father,” he said.

And third, he mentioned Catholic football.

“I thank God for Benedictine College and for the example it provides to the world,” he said. “You can have an authentically Catholic college and a thriving football program.”

He concluded with a call to service. 

“Make no mistake you are entering into mission territory in a ‘post-god’ world,” he said. “But you were made for this and with God by your side and a constant striving for virtue within your vocation you too can be a saint. Christ is King — to the heights!”

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EducationSpiritual LifeSports
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