New Jets rookie kicker Mike Nugent is rumored to have ice running in his veins. The Fans will find out soon enough. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
When Doug Brien missed two field goals in the last 2:02 of regulation of the Jets 20-17 loss to Pittsburgh in an AFC Divisional Playoff game last year, it was almost guaranteed he would not be with the Jets this season. Brien’s fate was sealed when the team used their first 2005 draft pick to select kicker Mike Nugent out of Ohio State. It marked just the fourth time a kicker was taken in the first two rounds in the last 15 years and Brien was released just days later.
Nugent has already impressed special teams coach Mike Westhoff.
“He’s good,” Westhoff said. “He’s a great kid. He’s athletic and reminds me of Olindo Mare. I like that he’s a cold weather guy.”
There will be a lot of pressure on Nugent every time he gets set to kick the ball off or kick a field goal. That is nothing new for Nugent, who routinely played in front of crowds of 100,000 at Ohio State.
“I definitely think so,” Nugent said when asked about if playing at Ohio State prepared him for the pressure of playing in New York. “It was definitely good playing at Ohio State. Just like any big school, you’re in a bubble. It’s a tough place to play.”
It’s very rare for a special teams player to get notoriety on a college football team but Nugent was elected team captain as a senior for being a leader on and off the field. He was 24-of-27 on field goals and perfect on extra points, going 30-of-30. Among the accolades that came Nugent’s way during his final collegiate season were All-American first team and winner of the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation’s top kicker. He also became the first kicker in school history to earn team MVP honors.
As a junior, Nugent was 16-of-19 on field goals and made all 38 extra point attempts.
Nugent struggled his freshman year at OSU, only making 7 of his 14 field goal attempts. He knew that he would have three more years to improve but Nugent knows if he struggles as a rookie in the NFL, there might not be a second chance.
“After my first year, I realized I was not doing my job,” Nugent said. “I have to realize from the start here, if you’re not doing your job, you can’t say better luck next year because you will be somewhere else and not in a place you want to be.”
In college, after his freshman year Nugent worked hard during the summer and it paid off the following season as he became the first Buckeye kicker ever to earn first team All-American honors in 2002, making 25-of-28 field goals and 45-of-46 extra points while helping the Buckeyes to win the National Championship.
Besides excelling on the field, Nugent was solid on the classroom, earning Ohio State Scholar Athlete honors four times.
It was certainly a dream for Nugent to play for Ohio State after growing up in Centerville, Ohio. Playing for Centerville High School, Nugent set a school record with 165 extra points. Nugent also played QB and threw for seven touchdowns while rushing for three touchdowns his senior year and earning offensive MVP honors.
Throughout his career, Nugent has been consistent, once making 24 field goals in a row from 2001-2002. He has a strong leg and was eight-of-nine on field goals from above 50 yards during his Ohio State career. Compare that to Doug Brien, who was just one-for-six from above 50 yards during his two years with the Jets. Nugent’s career long was a 55-yarder to beat Marshall in the season opener last year.
Nugent talked about his goals for his rookie year.
“I just want to do what I was brought here to do,” the Kicker said. “To kick field goals and extra points and kick offs. I want to focus on one practice at a time. And even farther than that, one kick at a time. I want to get to know everyone and be comfortable as I can with the situation.”
The youngster has shown he can pin opponents deep on kickoffs and displays good hang time allowing the coverage unit to get down field.
Jets head coach Herman Edwards was impressed with Nugent’s ability during onside kicking drills.
“I think he has a knack for onside kicking,” Edwards said. “It gives you a chance to recover some of those which are important.”
While there is another kicker in camp in rookie free agent Xavier Beitia from Florida State, there’s a better chance of Paris Hilton making the team. Despite this, Nugent enjoys the competition aspect.
“Any sport you play, especially in the NFL, it’s all about competition,” Nugent said. “It makes sports so great. In this league, it’s unbelievable how much competition there is. If you don’t do your job, 2,000 other people are sitting there, willing to take your job. They want to be out there instead of you. Going into every position everyone has to win the job.”
Nugent will be watched closely by the fans and media and be expected to help win many games with his leg.
“When you draft a guy that high you anticipate he’s going to be in the League for a long time,” Edwards said. “Hopefully he can make some kicks for us. We still have to score points. When you look at our League it’s about scoring and when you get in close games you want a kicker that can make kicks and we think he can do that.”
Hopefully Edwards’ statement comes true and Nugent is helping the Jets win games for many years to come.