All-Time Greatest – No. 36: Mike Nugent

BuckeyeSports.com counts down the days until Ohio State's 2008 season opener with its list of the 50 greatest Buckeyes of all-time. The series continues today with No. 36: kicker Mike Nugent.

One of Ohio State's most productive players in the early to mid-2000s never threw a scoring pass, snagged a game-clinching interception or brought back a punt for a touchdown. Yet, Mike Nugent became so popular that Buckeye fans chanted his name and even began a grass-roots campaign for him to win the Heisman Trophy.

Born March 2, 1982, in Centerville, Ohio, Nugent earned second-team All-Ohio honors in Division I as a high school senior. That was the culmination of a prep career that included converted 5 of 7 field goal opportunities and all 29 PAT attempts for the Elks.

Nugent was also Centerville's quarterback, team captain and offensive MVP in 2000, and he was hopeful of getting a scholarship offer to play at Ohio State. But the OSU program was in upheaval after the firing of longtime head coach John Cooper and the hiring of Youngstown State boss Jim Tressel.

Nugent didn't even know if he was going to get an offer, and in fact was on his way to an official visit at the University of Pittsburgh with the thought that he would likely become a Panther. On the way to Pitt, however, the OSU offer came through. Recruiting coordinator Bill Conley contacted Centerville head coach Ron Ullery, who called Nugent's parent, who woke up Mike who was dozing in the back seat.

One week later, Tressel had his first official verbal commitment from the state of Ohio.

Nugent's up-and-down performance as a freshman in 2001 mirrored that of the Buckeyes that season. While the team struggled to an 7-5 season under Tressel, Nugent shared kicking duties with Josh Huston and wound up making only seven of his 14 field goal tries. He also missed a couple of conversion kicks during the season.

When the team reconvened for fall camp in 2002, however, Nugent was ready to improve upon his rookie season. After an offseason of hard work, he was one of the stars as the Buckeyes charged to the national championship.

Nugent set no fewer than nine school records that year, including more field goals in a season (25) and most points scored by a kicker in a single season (120). He also kicked at least one field goal in each of the team's first 12 games that year, and in 13 of the 14 games overall.

Following the season, he earned several first-team All-America honors.

Nugent wasn't quite as prolific the following season but he was nearly as accurate. As a junior in 2003, he connected on 16 of 19 field goals and was a perfect 38-for-38 in PATs for a team-leading 86 points. One of his three-pointers was a 53-yarder against Iowa, the second-longest field goal by a Buckeye in Ohio Stadium history.

His senior season was the pièce de résistance. Nugent again led the team in scoring with 102 points and broke the school scoring record of 348 that had been held by Pete Johnson since 1976.

He connected on all 30 of his extra-point tries in 2004 and hit on 24 of 27 field-goal attempts. His 55-yarder against Marshall won the game for Ohio State, and his five field goals the following week against North Carolina State tied a school mark for a single game.

Nugent topped things off by earning another first-team All-America honor as well as the Lou Groza Award as college football's top kicker. And he became the first kicker ever voted Ohio State MVP by his teammates since the award began in 1930.

"These are the things you don't even think about when you're a kicker," Nugent said at the time. "My philosophy has always been just to go out and do my job the best that I can. To be named captain at the beginning of the year just blew me away. But this – to be named MVP and know it came from your teammates – well, it's a little overwhelming."

Nugent finished his college career with four more three-pointers during the Buckeyes' 33-7 dismantling of Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl, and then added three additional field goals in the North's 23-13 win in the Senior Bowl.

Although he was projected by some experts as a possible first-round selection, Nugent was drafted by the New York Jets in the second round of the 2005 NFL draft with the 47th overall selection.

Since joining the Jets, he has converted 75 of 91 field goal attempts in three seasons. Inside 40 yards, Nugent has made 53 of 58 career attempts, good for 91.4-percent accuracy.

Yesterday: No. 37 Joey Galloway

Tomorrow: No. 35


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