Mike Nugent has been close to a Super Bowl a few times.
He kicked for the Jets in the playoffs a few years back. And when he was six years old his parents decided to leave him and his siblings home in Centerville nearby Cincinnati while they went to Super Bowl XXIII as Bengals season-ticket holders.
So you can imagine the jolt that went through his family Friday when he signed with the Bengals as the Bengals continue to wait word from Shayne Graham about their offer. The Nugents haven’t had season tickets since the last days of Cinergy Field/Riverfront Stadium, but Nugent knows if Graham moves on in free agency and he beats out Dave Rayner, the tickets situation is going to change suddenly.
“That was about the time the Ohio State tickets became the focus, but I would think there would be a move back,” Nugent said Saturday morning from Columbus, Ohio. “My brother and his girlfriend are really fired up. She’s from Cincinnati. They’re diehard Bengals fans. Yeah, they love Carson and Chad. I think those guys are a given.”
Nugent fell out of the league almost as quickly as the Jets took him out of Ohio State in the second round of the 2005 draft. He hit on 80 percent of his field-goal tries in his first three seasons, but since he injured one of his quadriceps kicking off early in 2008 and missed the rest of the season, he has tried just eight field goals and made half of them for Tampa Bay and then Arizona at the end of last year pinch-hitting for the injured Neil Rackers.
“I went two for two in Arizona, hit them really good, and I think my leg is stronger than at any point,” Nugent said. “I think I can build on that. The (injury) is something I figured was just one of those things you can’t worry about anything you can’t control. I’ve been in the weight room working hard on building up my leg and trying to improve on kickoffs. If you can help your defense by putting the offense in a hole, you’ve helped yourself.”
Nugent has had trouble kicking off in the past, but he felt he did it pretty well when he worked out for the Bengals in January at PBS. He can’t worry about what Graham does because he agreed that, “I’m just happy to have a chance again to make a team.”
And it is the hometown team. That year his parents went to Miami he was like every other Cincy kid and was a big Ickey Woods fan. Later in the ‘90s he became a follower of kicker Doug Pelfrey when he began going to the games regularly. From 1994-96, Pelfrey won six of the Bengals’ 18 victories on the game’s last snap.
“He was so successful and he was just the kind of guy that was so solid and had a lot of confidence when he took the field,” Nugent recalled.
Nugent won the job in Tampa Bay during the last preseason, but he had a curious run. His first kick there got blocked and then he missed one. He didn’t get a chance for a game or two, and although he made two field goals the Bucs cut him when he missed tries from 48 and 49.
“They were long, but I’ve got to make those,” Nugent said. “I think that’s just a rough stretch that every kicker seems to go through and that I can get back and be better than I was.”
By the way, he’s one-for-one at PBS. He kicked a 24-yarder for the Buckeyes in their win in 2002 when the field was not as nice as it is now.
“The Bengals did a great job with it,” said Nugent of the FieldTurf that was installed in 2004.
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