One Year To Erase One Bad Day

Ryan Pretorius wasn't crying after this kick scrimmage. One year after his performance handed the starting field goal duties to Aaron Pettrey, Pretorius has reclaimed them following a year of hard work, practice and, above all, consistency.

It had to be one of the worst days of his life.

There stood Ryan Pretorius, fighting back tears as he spoke with media members following the 2006 fall kick scrimmage. His one-day performance had blown his chance at being the team's primary kicker – and he knew it.

It was a tough blow for the native of Durbin, South Africa, who had wound up in Columbus by way of France (more on that later).

"I just felt like this time last year I was just pulling the ball left no matter what I tried to do," he said. "It was like a magnet to the left corner. No matter what I would to it would still go there."

But the disappointment of that day made Wednesday's kick scrimmage at Ohio State even more sweet for the excitable Pretorius, who frequently uses words like "jeepers" and admits to still not knowing all the rules of the game.

Now, after a year of consistency, OSU head coach Jim Tressel said following the kick scrimmage that Pretorius will handle the team's field goals while last season's No. 1 kicker, Aaron Pettrey, will primarily take care of kickoffs.

"I get goosebumps hearing that," Pretorius said.

Pretorius earned the starting job, he said, because of two words: "Persistence and perseverance." Those are two words prominently featured in OSU's "Winner's Manual," which is handed out to every player.

They also helped him get through a frustrating time as a Buckeye to this point. A high school soccer and rugby player, Pretorius was playing professional rugby in France when he began to research a sport called football where he could just kick the ball all the time.

After speaking with a close family friend – 24-year NFL veteran kicker Gary Anderson, also from South Africa – he turned down a contract that would have paid more than $180,000 and packed his bags. Pretorius earned a spot as a preferred walk-on at OSU

"Gary said to me, ‘Ryan, go to college,' " Pretorius said. "The reason he was so successful in 24 years was because he had four years to make mistakes at Syracuse. I came to Ohio State. It was a good situation, but at Ohio State you're not allowed to make mistakes."

That was a lesson he learned all too well. After redshirting for the 2004 season, Pretorius backed up Josh Huston in 2005 before entering the fall of 2006 in a battle with Pettrey – then a redshirt freshman more than seven years his junior. He earned a scholarship after the Texas game in 2005.

While the battle was close, it was Pettrey's performance in the 2006 fall kick scrimmage that gave him the job. From there, Pretorius would get just two kicks during the season, connecting on a 52-yarder against Cincinnati and coming up short on a 51-yarder in the season opening victory against Northern Illinois.

Pettrey would finish the season 8 of 11 with a long of 51 yards, seemingly nailing down the starting spot. But as the season went on, Pretorius said the frustration of being more consistent – in his eyes – but still second on the depth chart drove him to consider transferring.

"I was given a 52-yarder, which I made, and that was the last field goal attempt I was given," he said. "If I was bad in practice I'd understand, but I was very, very consistent, if not the most consistent.

"You look on the Internet and see where kickers are struggling and a place like Alabama I was interested in going to, but then I'd have to sit out for a year and if you sit out for a year and a freshman comes in and does really well you might never get that opportunity."

In the end that realization, along with his love for the OSU coaching staff, helped keep him in Columbus. It also furthered his resolve to keep his head down and keep working on being the most consistent kicker he could be.

The coaching staff apparently took notice.

"He had a really good spring and camp," Tressel said. "He really had excellent bowl practice numbers, excellent spring numbers, excellent preseason."

His holder, Jon Thoma, now moves up to the first team along with Pretorius. The two have worked together since both arrived at OSU in 2004, and Thoma said Pretorius took his role in stride.

"He's a great team player," Thoma said. "He knows his role and he got some chances in games. He was happy with his role and obviously kept working hard."

While the kick scrimmage might have been his semi-public unveiling as the starter, Pretorius said he first found out after the team's Aug. 18 jersey scrimmage. It was the culmination of a year of hard work punctuated by off-field personal issues including a divorce that helped make the time difficult.

Now he is penciled in as the starter, it's only taken one year to erase a one-day bad performance.

"I think I've been very consistent and everything was based on one day last year and I've just put my head down and worked," he said. "I've just been consistent and put my head down and just prayed to God that Coach Tressel would see how consistent I've been and give me an opportunity and it seems like he's about to. I'm very grateful for that."

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