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Nugent's Become a Kicker to Be Counted On


Nugent struts passed the dismantled Dolphin CB

When you're an NFL kicker, there aren't many places to hide.

Do your job, get a few pats on the back and the moment is over. Kickers in the NFL are used to this, all having been the best of the best to make it on a team in first place.

"I think at this level, you can get every kicker, we'll all be kicking together, all 32 kickers can kick together on a day like today, everyone would be hitting balls like crazy," the Jets' Mike Nugent said in after this morning's hot training camp practice. "But I think the difference is what you can do when it actually counts."

Have a bad day when it does count, and everyone knows about it.

It takes the combination of a special mind and special talent to be able to play the position well, something that Nugent proved capable of last season.

His year, however, started with a rotten egg at Tennessee when he missed an extra point and 34- and 30-yard field goals, all wide right. The Jets won that day, 23-16, but Nugent was wary of the seven points he had cost his team. His teammates, however, helped pick up his spirits.

"I had a real rough day," said Nugent, "but my teammates were thinking, 'We didn't get that field goal, let's just get back at it,' and we won the game."

The missed kicks were still gnawing at Nugent the next day and he decided to go out to practice to try to clear any negative thoughts still lingering from the game.

"Really, it was one of those things where I just needed to go out by myself," he said. "I went out the next day and hit a few balls, just to kind of get my head on straight."

The result of Nugent's self-counseling session: No misses the rest of the year inside of 50 yards. In fact, Nugent rattled off 18 consecutive field goals to finish the regular season four shy of the franchise record held by Pat Leahy — then went 3-for-3 in the playoff game at New England.

Nugent enters this season kicking the ball as good as he's ever been. In this morning's practice, during 11-on-11 game-simulation drills, the Jets' first team offense got the ball on its 20 down, 20-10, with just over a minute to play in the half. Just as he would in an actual game, Nugent readied himself on the sidelines.

"I like when Coach does that," he said. "When we do maybe a random situation because we usually take it from a real game situation, he won't just make it up off the top of his head."

When the drive stalled on the defense's 39-yard line, Nugent was sent out for a 57-yard field goal … toward goal posts much closer together than the normal size. (Think Arena Football League.)

The kicker shocked the Hofstra crowd by hitting two field goals with room to spare at that distance.

Head coach Eric Mangini, however, has been more impressed with the way Nugent has progressed in other areas.

"With Nooge, what he did this off-season was he spent a lot of time really working on total body strength," said Mangini. "One of his points of emphasis was kickoffs. He was working on getting more distance and hang time on his kickoffs and he's done a good job with that. I think his consistency through last season improved."

On kickoffs, Nugent found someone to model himself after in the off-season in Saints kicker Olindo Mare, the former Dolphin.

"He in my opinion has the biggest kickoff leg I've ever seen," said Nugent. "It's fun to watch him and we've also played against him the last couple years. It's good to learn from other players, because they play for 10 years. I want to be at that point also."

As far as his own reputation is concerned, Nugent is wary of the way it works as a kicker. For him, making kicks is the best way to earn respect from his teammates.

"Once we get to a certain yard line, I would love one of my teammates on the field thinking, 'OK, we're here, we've got at least three points," said Nugent. "You kind of earn that on the field now. You have in the past few years, which is still there. But it all starts over now."

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