Nugent nearly automatic for Buckeyes

In the moments before he attempts a field goal or extra point, one thought dominates Mike Nugent's mind.

"I've kicked this ball a million times from every spot on the field," he said, "so there's no reason to believe I can't do it again."

In Nugent's case, a million isn't much of an exaggeration. The man simply loves to kick. He has been doing it in his backyard since grade school and said he hopes to kick in the NFL until he's 55 years old.

"I love coming to practice every day," Nugent said.

And his Ohio State teammates love having him come to the games. Without him, the Buckeyes (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today, No. 7 AP) could easily be 1-2.

Nugent nailed a 55-yarder on the game's last play to beat Marshall on Sept. 11. A week later, he went 5-for-5 in the Buckeyes' 22-14 victory at NC State.

But don't suggest to the 22-year-old senior that he'd be the early-season pick (OK, he and Purdue's Kyle Orton) for Big Ten MVP.

"I don't see myself as that," he said. "So many things have to happen right just for me to have an opportunity to kick a field goal. The defense has to have a good stop, the offense has to drive down the field. And then there's the field goal itself. My snapper and holder are unreal. You're only as good as the people you work with, and I have the best."

Nugent, who also said he should not be considered a Heisman Trophy candidate, really is that humble.

"What you see is what you get," said Nugent's brother, Kevin, a forward on Ohio State's soccer team. "He was telling me about all the hype with the Heisman, and he thought it was crazy. He was saying that quarterbacks and running backs have much more pressure than he does."

Kevin and Mike have been kicking partners since their earliest days growing up in Centerville, Ohio, just south of Dayton.

The two brothers and their father, Dan, a former linebacker at the University of Dayton, constructed both a soccer goal and uprights in their back yard. It was their very own field of dreams.

"We used trees to measure the distances," Kevin said. "The farthest we could go was 50 yards. We'd always have friends over for competitions."

While Kevin focused on soccer, Mike kicked and played running back in high school. There was a vacancy at quarterback for Mike's senior year, so he stepped in, ran the option and led his team to a conference championship.

That history helped the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Nugent earn respect from his Ohio State teammates.

"They know I'm not just a kicker standing on the sidelines waiting for practice to be over," he said.

It also helps that Nugent has converted 49-of-56 field-goal tries since his sophomore season, including 5-for-6 from 50 yards and beyond.

Nugent, though, remains low-key about his success. He shows little emotion after making a field goal. Kevin would like to change that.

"I've been trying to get him to do something when he hits a long one," he said. "Give the crowd something."

How about a couple of fist pumps?

"If I see that," Kevin said, "I think I'm going to take credit."

Teddy Greenstein covers the Big Ten for the Chicago Tribune.