CINCINNATI (AP) - Former Ohio State kicker Aaron Pettrey was working part time at a shop that sells Buckeyes gear in Columbus, stocking merchandise and ringing up sales while waiting for some team to give him a chance.
It was starting to look like a long shot.
Pettrey did a little bit of everything at The Buckeye Room, which sells $79.95 Archie Griffin jerseys, OSU pumpkin cutting kits for $7.95 and all things in-between. He mingled with customers who never recognized him as a player in the Buckeye-crazed city.
Pro teams seemed to be taking the same approach, overlooking him as they filled out their rosters and half of a season went by. He got his shot when another former Buckeye got hurt.
Cincinnati’s Mike Nugent tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a 23-17 loss in Indianapolis on Sunday. His kicking leg gave out as he chased his onside kick late in the game, ending his season.
Suddenly, the Bengals were interested in a kicker who is familiar with knee problems.
Pettrey went 29 of 39 on field goals at Ohio State, leading the Big Ten in scoring and field goals (14) in 2009. He hurt his right knee on a kickoff against New Mexico State on Oct. 31, missed the last three regular-season games, then returned and kicked during a 26-17 win over Oregon in the Rose Bowl.
Carolina signed him as an undrafted free agent and waived him. He signed with Detroit, missed a 42-yard field goal in the preseason and was waived on Aug. 17, leaving him out of football. He kept in shape by working out at Ohio State’s complex and got the job selling Buckeyes gear.
“They were nice enough to work with me,” he said. “I told them I might have to leave for a tryout or anything kicking-wise, and they said, ‘That’s fine. If you ever need a day off, let us know.’”
He had to ask for some time off this week, when the Bengals called and invited him to Paul Brown Stadium for a tryout that led to the contract offer.
“I was getting ready for a couple of Arena League tryouts, so I was working out three times a week and hitting the ball pretty good,” he said.
He moved into Nugent’s locker _ the third one from the door that leads to the field. Although glad to be in the NFL, he felt bad about the circumstances.
“When I was getting recruited (to Ohio State), he was still there,” Pettrey said. “I’ve kicked with him several times and know him pretty well. It’s just unfortunate. He was having such a good year.”
He completes his move from fan-shop obscurity to NFL kicker on Sunday, when the Bengals (2-7) play at home against Buffalo (1-8). He figures his four years at Ohio State prepared him for the moment.
“They get 105,000 (fans) out every weekend and if you make a mistake, you’re going to know about it in the paper the next day,” Pettrey said. “It’s basically an NFL team there. They get real excited about their football and like to see their team win.”