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Published: Friday, 4/22/2005

Nugent might not go in first, but he'll go fast

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The odds are not in Mike Nugent's favor.

Since 1960, only five kicking specialists have been selected by NFL teams in the first round of the college draft.

The last time it happened, in 2000, the Oakland Raiders justified their selection of Florida State's Sebastian Janikowski by saying he was among the top offensive talents, based on point production, available in the draft.

The team that takes Ohio State's Nugent in this weekend's draft, regardless of round, will be able to say the same.

Nugent converted on 24 straight field goals as a sophomore, helping lead the Buckeyes to the national championship, then capped his career last season by making 20 of 23 attempts. One of them was a 55-yard game-winner against Marshall that would have been good from 60, maybe even 65 yards.

He's the coolest, calmest customer in the kicking game and figures to have a long career in the NFL.

It is unlikely that Nugent, winner of the Lou Groza Award as the nation's premier college kicker last season, will hear his name called during tomorrow's first round, but it would not be unprecedented.

The Washington Redskins made kicker Charlie Gogolak of Princeton their first-round pick in 1966, the Raiders took punter Ray Guy from Southern Mississippi in 1973, and the St. Louis Cardinals made Arkansas kicker Steve Little their top pick in 1978. A year later, New Orleans took Russell Erxleben, a combination kicker-punter from Texas, in the first round.

Nugent is poised to have the same type of impact in the NFL as has Janikowski, who has made good on 71 of 93 field-goal attempts (79 percent) and has converted on 166 of 167 PATs during his five years in the league.

You almost surely will not hear his name called during this weekend's draft - and you might not recognize it if it were - but there's a University of Toledo kicking-game specialist who coach Tom Amstutz feels should have a solid NFL career.

During UT's recent pro day workout, a good number of the 18 NFL scouts on hand watched intently as long snapper Michael Heuer accurately zipped one hard, perfect spiral after another to his holder.

"Why hasn't anybody ever heard of him?" Amstutz said. "In the kicking game, about the only time you ever hear a name is when somebody screws up. With Michael, there's never been anything to talk about. He never had a bad snap in three years."

The 6-3, 250-pound Heuer, who came to UT as a walk-on from Macedonia, Ohio, will likely get his chance in the NFL as an undrafted free agent.



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