The senior placekicker suffered a medial collateral ligament injury in his right knee – his kicking leg – during Ohio State's Oct. 31 victory against New Mexico State. The incident took place during a kickoff, when Pettrey went downfield in pursuit of a NMSU returner. One of Aggies went to block Pettrey, diving at his legs. It should have been a penalty, but instead it looked like it was going to be the final play for Pettrey at OSU.
"I remember seeing him right before he did it and I remember looking away and then just feeling getting rolled up on," Pettrey said Dec. 14 during Ohio State's bowl media day. "I remember it very vividly. The only part I don't remember is rolling around for a little bit until I got helped off by the doctors."
Since then Pettrey has worked hard to get once last chance to kick as a Buckeye. He had surgery in the days following the NMSU game and has been cleared to start kicking again. He is certainly far from 100 percent, but the Raceland, Ky., native said he wants to kick in the Rose Bowl. Pettrey puts the odds on his return at better than 50-50. "Maybe 60-40 right now, with me getting back with the 60," Pettrey said. "I've been kicking light, not swinging too hard, and I'm ahead of schedule by a few weeks. "I'm going to continue kicking the rest of this week and hopefully get back in practice Sunday or Monday." Pettrey's quick recovery has brought hope for a happy ending to his story, something that did not look promising at halftime of the New Mexico State game. "(The doctors) told me 6-8 weeks and I was like ‘Well I guess I'm done,' " Pettrey said. "It was pretty emotional time at halftime. The specialists came in and then other teammates came in and then Coach (Jim) Tressel. The doctor even told me I was done for the season, but I had surgery a couple days later and right now I'm feeling pretty good."
Since that day and the subsequent surgery to repair his MCL Pettrey has been focused on rehab and passing every test the doctors give him.
"I was supposed to be in a brace and not running or anything for six weeks, and right now I can run outside the brace and I can kick in the brace," he said. "I wasn't supposed to swing my leg for six weeks and I was kicking at four."
Sitting on the sidelines has been bittersweet for Pettrey, who said it gave him an opportunity to get a different perspective on kicking. However, it also robbed him of a chance to play the hero in Ohio State's Nov. 14 overtime win over Iowa. Instead it was walk-on Devin Barclay, who has taken over kickoff and placekicking duties during Pettrey's absence, who became the most celebrated man in Columbus after booting a 39-yard game winner against the Hawkeyes.
"It's been real difficult," Pettrey said. "I was glad to see Devin come in and do a great job. He actually got the key to the city for a night after the Iowa game. He did a great job.
"It was tough to watch, but I was just kind of a like a coach. I talked to him, helped him out as much as I could, but he didn't need much help."
Barclay has made 4 of 7 field-goal attempts after Pettrey went down and will still be needed in the Rose Bowl even if Pettrey is able to go. The former professional soccer player will handle kickoffs either way. Pettrey will not attempt a kickoff until at least a week after the Rose Bowl.
When asked why he would rush his return, his answer was simple.
"I would rather go out with a win against Oregon than a win against New Mexico State where I went 0 for 2 (in field goal attempts)," Pettrey said. "You don't get too many chances to play in the Rose Bowl with the group guys I'm here with. It's been very important to me and it's been helping with my rehab.
"This is all I've got left and I'm going to make it back, hopefully."