Pretorius Took Interesting Route To OSU

Freshman kicker Ryan Pretorius grew up playing soccer and rugby in South Africa. He now has his sights set on winning the starting kicking job at Ohio State. Pretorius might have to wait until 2006 to get his chance, but he has impressed everyone so far with his leg strength.

You would be hard pressed to find a player on Ohio State's football team with a more interesting background than kicker Ryan Pretorius.

Pretorius, 25, was born in Zimbabwe, grew up in South Africa, played professional rugby in Europe and has now brought his big leg to Columbus.

"I lived there since I was 3, so I call myself South African," Pretorius said.

Kicker Gary Anderson – who has the most points in NFL history – is from the same area of South Africa (Durbin) as Pretorius. Anderson has taken Pretorius under his wing and is part of the reason Pretorius ended up at OSU.

"I spoke to Gary once I got out here (to the United States) and he pointed me in the right direction," Pretorius said. "He kind of said, ‘If you want to make it big time, you've got to go a big college.' Luckily I had some friends and family in the Columbus area. That's why I came here and I'm just so happy to be here."

Pretorius initially visited the United States on vacation and decided he wouldn't mind living the rest of his life here.

"I came to America about two or three years ago," he said. "I came over on vacation and then I went back to Europe – I was playing rugby at the time. My parents have a house just outside of London, so I would go visit them. And then I would come back and forth to keep my visa alive.

"Then I eventually got married (to an American girl named Amy Gold) and I'm allowed to stay."

And Pretorius was sure to stay in close contact with Anderson – the man that could help jumpstart his kicking career.

"My wife's dad is actually friends with (Anderson) and he gave me his email address and I emailed him back and forth," Pretorius said. "Eventually he got a hold of my cell phone and gave me a call and gave me some pointers and how to go about this kicking career.

"He basically wanted me to send a video over to him – which I did – kicking field goals from 40 back to 65 yards. He was pretty impressed. He said I had the talent to go all the way, but I've got to go to college first and prove myself there before you can dream of going to the NFL."

So, besides the family and friends in the Columbus area, how did Pretorius end up at OSU?

"I came here in August or September of last year," he said. "Basically I sent a video in – because I had never played before. And, hopefully I've done enough to earn a scholarship. That's what I'm really vying for. But the most important thing to me is a starting spot, above anything else. I've got to try and win that first."

Pretorius first got the itch to try American football while he was still playing rugby. No one suggested that he should try American football, he simply thought it would be a good idea.

"Basicially, I based everything on what I had achieved in rugby, in terms of kicking penalties there," he said. "I knew I had what it takes, I just knew I'd have to be in the right environment.

"I first kicked a football about two years ago. A rugby ball is similar to a football – slightly longer and bigger. But I decided, ‘Let's give this a try.' Obviously I had to resort to kicking off the ground and it flies very much like a football. I just worked hard at that for two years."

Pretorius also has a background in soccer. And he was obviously very good at rugby to be able to turn pro.

"I played soccer until I was about 16 and then I concentrated on rugby in high school," Pretorius said. "I played provincial soccer, then I went over and played provincial rugby. Then I turned pro in rugby and traveled around Europe. Quite an exciting life traveling to other countries."

So, why didn't the 5-10, 190-pound Pretorius continue pursuing a professional rugby career?

"Well, I did, but being such a small guy, my strongest thing in rugby was actually kicking a goal," he said. "My shoulders are pretty broken down from all the rugby I went through – tackling guys like Steve Rehring every day. Eventually it gets to me and kicking a ball through two sticks was what I was good at, so I decided to give football a go."

Pretorius redshirted in 2004, so he has four years of eligibility remaining.

Although sixth-year senior Josh Huston seems to have the starting job locked down this year, Pretorius is not ready to concede the job.

"No, definitely not," he said. "I believe I've got what it takes to win the job. It's just basically up to (head coach Jim) Tressel. I don't know if he's going to go for experience. I know Josh shared with (Mike) Nugent his freshman season. I don't know what he's looking for, but in terms of accuracy so far, I know I'm ahead.

"Josh has a slightly stronger leg – he hits a great looking ball. And Jon (Skeete is) coming in leaps and bounds too and he's hitting a great ball too. So, it's a nice competition among all of us."

It's rare that a college football team would have three competent kickers.

"Exactly," Pretorius said. "Jon and I are both freshmen and Josh is a senior. Josh is a good guy and it's a healthy competition for the whole team."

Pretorius was 4 for 5 on field goals during the kick scrimmage with a long of 44 yards.

In the spring game, sporting the No. 85 for the first time (he was No. 32 previously) Pretorius missed a 43-yard field goal off the left goalpost.

Pretorius will probably have to wait until 2006 to realize his dream of being a starter. But he appears to have a bright future at OSU. He's got a big leg and could develop into an outstanding kicker from 2006-08.

Buckeye Sports Top Stories