Recruiting Flashback: Mike Nugent

As National Signing Day approaches, will look back at recruiting profiles of several former Ohio State stars. First up is New York Jets kicker Mike Nugent, whose profile originally appeared in the Feb. 7, 2001, issue of Buckeye Sports Bulletin.

Centerville, Ohio, must be a safe haven for first-year Buckeye coaches. Shortly after his hiring in December 1987, John Cooper went to Centerville High School to tab Kirk Herbstreit as the very first prep player to commit to his program. New OSU coach Jim Tressel almost nabbed his very first verbal commitment from there as well.

Although Chris Gamble was actually the first recruit to verbally commit to OSU under the Tressel regime, kicker Mike Nugent of Centerville High School had already made his mind up on Jan. 26, some five days before Gamble went public. Nugent just waited to give the formal announcement during his official visit the weekend of Feb. 2-4.

Nugent, however, could just as easily have been a Pittsburgh Panther by now. He was on his way to visit the school on the last weekend in January when his fortunes changed.

"Mike was en route to visit Pittsburgh, he was in the car with his parents when (OSU recruiting coordinator Bill) Conley called here at the high school and said they were going to offer him," said Centerville coach Ron Ullery. "So we contacted Mike's parents on the road on the cell phone."

Nugent was asleep in the car at the time but when he woke up, his parents had him call Conley right back.

"When I talked to him on the phone, he said they wanted to offer me a scholarship," Nugent said. "He knows that I've wanted to go to Ohio State all of my life, so he said to just come up for a visit that next weekend and meet all of the coaches. And I did that and committed on Saturday afternoon the next weekend."

Despite the dream offer from Conley, Nugent did go through with his visit to Pittsburgh and they eventually offered him as well. The Ohio State offer, however, came just in the nick of time.

"I never expected them to call me when they did," he said. "But when they did I was really surprised. It was just great."

Because of the coaching change, not a lack of confidence, Nugent thought that the OSU staff had other priorities to deal with right away.

"I wasn't sure that was anything on their minds because they had a lot of guys to take care of," he said. "And I really didn't think they'd give another scholarship to a kicker because they just did last year."

But Conley kept the lines of communication open between Nugent and OSU.

"I had been talking to Coach Conley for a while and he said just stay in touch and don't put Ohio State out of your mind because things could just fall into place," Nugent said. "Everyone told me to be patient, you always get what you deserve, and I finally did.

"When Ohio State offered, I dropped everything and decided that I wanted to go to Ohio State."

Luckily for Nugent, Conley was in his corner the entire time. Nugent was a veteran of four OSU summer camps and Conley must have seen something special in him.

"Coach Conley really had a lot of faith in me," Nugent said. "He really tried hard to bring me in. But Coach Cooper I think just wanted (current redshirt freshman kicker) Josh Huston on scholarship."

Along with the new coaching staff came another ally for Nugent.

"Coach (Mark) Dantonio actually recruited me from Michigan State and I got to know him really well," Nugent said. "I was told at a meeting Coach Dantonio actually brought my name up and with Conley's input they decided to give me an offer."

Nugent himself couldn't have drawn up any better scenario than the way things worked out.

"Everything worked out so perfect," he said. "I guess that's just how it is with kicking scholarships. If you're patient, it could happen in the end."

That said, you still have to be good enough to even warrant consideration for one of those hard-to-come-by kicking scholarships, and Nugent kicked for four years at Centerville with a great deal of accuracy. For his career he was 13 of 17 on field goals, including a school-record long of 52 yards.

While leading the team as the full-time quarterback in his senior season, Nugent connected on 5 of his 7 field goal attempts and converted on all 29 of his extra point tries.

"Obviously Mike's got a good strong leg for Ohio State to express the interest in him as a kicker," said Ullery.

"But he played halfback his first two years for us and quarterback this past year and he kicked for us. So he's a football player that kicks, he's not a kicker that plays football. He was our most valuable player on offense because of his quarterbacking this year. He's a great athlete."

In addition to Nugent's physical talents, Ullery said he really likes his player's mental makeup as well.

"I think really his strongest qualities are his competitiveness and his character," the coach said. "In addition to just being a tremendous kicker, he was a leader for us, he was one of our captains. And he's a great competitor. He doesn't back down from a challenge ever."

Ullery said that Nugent has been preparing himself to be a collegiate kicker for a long time.

"Mike's been around a lot of camps and he's gotten good reviews from a lot of places," he said. "He's got a real quick whip in his leg and gets the ball up off the ground real quick. He's been going to these camps and practicing kicking off the ground, not just off a tee as we do in high school."

Despite having Huston already at OSU, Ullery thinks Ohio State is a good fit for Nugent.

"Mike's a competitor and he doesn't back away from competition," he said. "He knows there is competition up there and he knows that he's going to have to win the job. And he still didn't hesitate to make the decision to come to Ohio State."

With Dan Stultz no longer around, it appears that Huston and Nugent will go head to head for the kicking job.

"I love to compete and I know that I'm going to have to do that for the next four years, just compete with Josh Huston," Nugent said. "I think that will actually make the team a lot better because the better kicker is going to be on the field.

"I'm really working at it hard already because I know Josh is working hard at it, too."

NAME – Mike Nugent
HIGH SCHOOL – Centerville, Ohio
HEIGHT, WEIGHT – 5-10, 165 pounds
40-YARD DASH TIME – 4.65 seconds
BENCH PRESS – 225 pounds
COLLEGE ENTRANCE TESTS – Scored a 20 on the ACT and a 1000 on the SAT.
VITAL STATISTICS – As a senior, Nugent was a first-team Western Ohio League and All-Southwest District selection. He was also a second-team Division I All-Ohio selection. He connected on 5 of 7 field-goal opportunities as a senior, when he also served as Centerville's quarterback. He kicked a school-record 52-yard field goal this past year. He converted 13 of 17 field goals in his career and was a perfect 29 of 29 on PATs in 2000. He totaled 262 points in his four-year career. He comes from the same high school that produced former OSU quarterback and WBNS-AM/ESPN commentator Kirk Herbstreit.
COACH'S COMMENT – "Mike will work year-round on his kicking. He practices nonstop on his own. He's pretty much a self-made kicker. (Former Buckeye) Tim Williams has been a mentor to him all the way through high school. He's only going to get better because he's not going to be a position player. In high school, he's running an option football team up and down the field and then we stop and ask him to kick a field goal right in the middle of the drive. Up there, he's only going to be a kicker and he's going to get stronger and as a result, he's only going to get better as a kicker. He's got strong character and a real genuine integrity, and he's a great kid from a great family." – Centerville coach Ron Ullery
HOBBIES – Participating in sports and working on school projects.
SCHOOLS INTERESTED IN – Signed with Ohio State over Pittsburgh, Bowling Green and Central Michigan. All offered a scholarship.

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