Myshan Pettis, a 5-foot-10, 175-pound freshman from Rogers, was a walk-on at UT but is starting at cornerback.
The beginning of Myshan Pettis' football career at Rogers High School went exactly as coach Rick Rios thought it would.
Opposing quarterbacks "picked on him because he was a little guy," Rios said.
What came next, Rios and those quarterbacks didn't expect. Pettis, a 5-foot-6, 140-pound sophomore at the time, had seven interceptions in his first season. He ended his high school days as Rogers' all-time interception leader with 11. Those quarterbacks stopped throwing his way.
The beginning of Pettis' career at the University of Toledo was Aug. 1, when players reported for physicals. There was no signing day, no summer workouts.
Pettis walked on as a cornerback, hoping for the best.
What came next is a hometown boy's dream. One quarter into the season, a player went down and Pettis stepped in. He's been a starter ever since, and will be on the field tomorrow night when UT (0-3) hosts Iowa State (1-2).
"As a kid I came to the games," Pettis said. "We used to sneak into the student section because it was the quickest way to get a closer view of the field.
"I always knew UT had a great tradition. I had been hearing about it all my life. To start in front of the home crowd, it's
going to be a great thing."
In a Rockets secondary ravaged by injuries, Pettis has kept things positive. Now at 5-10 and 175, he's still small. But that doesn't mean he's going unnoticed.
"Nobody probably expected him to come in and make an impact on this program," secondary coach Richard McNutt said. "But he has come in and really shown that he can compete on the highest level. He's competed against people in the Big Ten, the Big 12. He's covered their receivers and has done a good job doing it."
Added linebacker Beau Brudzinski: "The true freshman walk-on, he's stepped up. He's a little guy, but he makes big plays. He doesn't let much happen on him."
Pettis has five tackles and a pass breakup so far this season. Rios said a reason he knew Pettis could play at the next level was his confidence.
"No matter what happened, he always could come back and shake it off on the next play," Rios said.
One of eight walk-ons from the Toledo area on the team, Pettis was recruited by UT but ultimately not offered a scholarship. Coaches invited him to walk on.
UT coach Tom Amstutz said he expected Pettis could help the team eventually, but not so quickly.
"It's a positive statement about the Rogers football program, that a true freshman out of their program could play right away in college," Amstutz said.
Pettis is still not far removed from high school, though. He visited former Rogers teammates at practice on Monday, UT's off day.
Pettis went because he is close with Rogers assistant Reggie Murphy, but also so he can keep in touch with his old teammates.
"When you're in high school you look at college like it's hard, only the best of the best can play," Pettis said. "Really it's about effort. You've got to have talent because it's Division I, but once you come out here and play, give effort, the chances are unimaginable."
Amstutz said Pettis is a strong candidate to receive a scholarship in the future.
"When you come out of high school you always think you're going to go somewhere far," Pettis said. "But to be in Toledo, this was a great choice for me."
KERN ON LIST: Senior punter Brett Kern has been named to the Ray Guy Award watch list. Kern is one of 41 Division I-A punters on the list for the award, which is given annually to the nation's top punter.
Ten semifinalists will be named in November. Against Kansas last week Kern dropped five punts inside the 11-yard line and had a 58-yarder.
Contact Maureen Fulton at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6160.