Petit fights, wins CMU position battle

Patrick Henry High School graduate eyes NFL leap

Cody Pettit, an offensive lineman at Central Michigan and a Patrick Henry graduate.
Cody Pettit, an offensive lineman at Central Michigan and a Patrick Henry graduate.

In 2012, Cody Pettit played behind a senior right guard who signed as a free agent with the Detroit Lions. He began college with a center whom the Kansas City Chiefs selected as the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NFL draft.

Pettit watched what helped two of his predecessors make the move from Central Michigan’s football program to the NFL.

Darren Keyton is in training camp with the Lions, and Eric Fisher with the Chiefs. Both set a standard for Pettit. In order for Pettit to contend for playing time on this year’s team at Central Michigan, he had to emulate two players who reached the professional level.

“They’re very intelligent football players, they understand the game and they’re fluid,” Pettit said of Keyton and Fisher. “What stood out about them, it was how they were perfectionists when it came to the game. If they made a mistake, they’d want to go back and do a drill again. They’d say, ‘hey, coach, let me get this right.’

“That’s what was impressed upon me, because I realized, hey, that’s what I need to be doing.”

Last week, Central Michigan coach Dan Enos named Pettit as one of the Chippewa’s starters on the offensive line for when they face No. 17 Michigan at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Ann Arbor.

At Central Michigan’s media day earlier this month, Enos said Pettit’s emergence as a potential starter was unexpected; Pettit struggled two years ago with his initial move from the defensive line to the offensive line.

“He was on the scout team last year as a fourth-year guy, great team guy and a tremendous worker and finally had a very good spring,” Enos said. “He has been very solid in camp and right now he is our starting right guard. He's got himself to 300 pounds and he has done a tremendous job. We have been very happy, and that has kind of been the surprise of camp in how well he is playing.”

Playing behind Keyton, Pettit appeared in only two games last season but took the summer not only to condition and strengthen himself physically, but also to take a cerebral approach to his final year with the Chippewas.

“It was working on the brains of the sport,” said Pettit, who entered Central Michigan as a defensive lineman in 2009. “Learning the sport. I didn’t have a good grasp of the offense right away, and moving from the defensive line I had to flip everything. It was about learning the right calls, the footwork and the movement, and now, I feel so much more confident in my call-making, how to block against different defenses and really having confidence in my knowledge.”

Entering preseason camp in Mount Pleasant, Mich., Pettit also knew what was at stake for him — the fact that he wasn’t the only player in line to start at right guard.

“If I didn’t take it upon myself to prepare, then that was on me, completely,” Pettit said. “The coaches are going to play the best guy out there.

“Watching Darren and Eric really helped me build myself as a player. I learned a lot of great things from those players and I kept my head straight, and I focused on what I needed to focus on.”

Now, Pettit prepares for his first start with the Chippewas, against not only one of college football’s storied programs, but within a reasonable drive from his hometown of Deshler, where his younger brother, Colt, is a senior and a lineman at Patrick Henry who has committed to Virginia Tech.

“It’s a great feeling to finally get to play, and especially start, for this team,” Pettit said. “It makes it that much more special that it’s close to my hometown.”

Contact Rachel Lenzi at: rlenzi@theblade.com, 419-724-6510, or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.