Stoops awards ‘reliable,’ trustworthy kicker with a scholarship


Junior Miles Butler kicks an extra point during Kentucky Football’s Blue-White Spring Game on Friday, April 13, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

When Kentucky football head coach Mark Stoops is deciding who to play in a game, he’s not going to put in just anyone with a helmet on; he is going to put in the players he trusts.

It can be difficult to earn the trust of the head coach. Mistakes on the practice field, lack of time in the film room or lapses in the classroom are all reasons why coaches don’t trust players, resulting in being benched.

When Miles Butler first came to UK as a small walk-on kicker, he was unsure how many opportunities he would receive due to his size. However, he made up for his lack of size by taking advantage of the few opportunities he received as an upperclassman.

“Miles [Butler] has been very reliable,” Stoops said at UK’s Media Day. “A couple years ago when Austin [MacGinnis] was hurt, he did some kicking for us. He filled in punting for us last year and did a very good job.”

In 2015, Butler made 4-4 field goals and 11-12 extra point attempts as a redshirt freshman in relief of MacGinnis. Butler would not play the rest of 2015 or 2016 since he was behind one of UK’s all-time greatest kickers on the depth chart, but Stoops already trusted Butler in desperate situations.

In 2017, a desperate occasion would arise when starting punter Matt Panton was suspended a game for violating team rules. Backup punter Grant McKinniss was healthy and available, but Stoops did not want to burn his redshirt season, so he had to look elsewhere.

Stoops would call on Butler’s name to fill in the punting duties for that one game.

“I try to be as versatile as I can, kickoffs, field goals, punt, whatever the team wants me to do to help, I try to work on it and master my craft to give them all I can,” Butler said.

Butler had not seriously practiced punting since high school leading up to that game, but he would occasionally practice rugby style kicks with Panton at practice. So when the opportunity to punt for a game came up, Butler was more prepared.

“When the situation came up they kind of joked, ‘Can you actually do it?’ and then we worked that week and it was alright,” Butler said.

Butler was exceptional in that game, as he averaged 38.7 yards for three punts, all of which were pinned inside of the opponent’s 20-yard line.

Butler has proven that he’s capable of being a reliable player in two different scenarios, and it’s because of this that Stoops has a lot of trust in Butler, so much trust that Stoops awarded him with a scholarship during the second week of training camp.

“His trust in me has been unbelievable ever since I got here,” Butler said. “Just a little 150-pound kid and for him to come to me and talk to me and trust me really means a lot to me.”

Butler has a chance to be more than just an emergency player now, as he is looking to win the starting kicker job for this season.

The new starting kicker has some big shoes to fill in replacing MacGinnis, but Butler wants the opportunity to do so, just like how he wanted the opportunity to fill in in 2015 and 2017.

“For me to step in for somebody that’s done so well and that’s had such a good career, making so many big kicks, game on the line, it’s an opportunity I welcome, honestly,” Butler said.