Rugby kicker finds home at Ohio State
Pretorius scans the inside expanse of the Louisiana Superdome, and his eyes widen.
But they can't fathom this.
"They'd just be floored.
I mean, I'd be floored if I knew one of my friends was doing this,"
"I'm going to try to Facebook and e-mail them and tell them there's this game -- probably Tuesday morning at like 2 a.m. their time -- and they should turn on their televisions and see a bit of football. And they might recognize someone they know."
He spent more than five improbable years getting here.
Pretorius, at 28 the oldest player on either roster tonight,
His rugby career wasn't taking
off. He liked the notion of "a sport where you could just kick" and
was advised by fellow South African, family friend and former NFL kicker Gary
Anderson to try to get into college football. Pretorius
He moved to
"He has a unique style ... real soccer style, sometimes from a pretty hard angle," says Chad Rogosheske, an OSU graduate assistant coach who works with kickers, punters and long-snappers. "It's a roundhouse leg motion rather than a down-and-through motion. But it works well for him. He's very comfortable doing it that way."
Pretorius sat out a redshirt season, kicked off in a couple of games in 2005 and got a shot at being the starter a year ago. He lost out to Aaron Pettrey, then won the job away from Pettrey before this season.
He hit 17 of 21 field goal attempts and all but one of 46 point-after tries during the regular season. "The reason he won the job was his accuracy," Rogosheske says. "Coach (Jim) Tressel is probably more likely to punt if it's going to be a 50-yard field goal unless we need it to win the game. So we need a guy who's going to be accurate closer in, and that's what he's able to do."
Still, one of Pretorius' two field goals in 2006 came from 52 yards, and
he had a 50-yarder at the start of
No less memorable is the first
time he suited up -- for a game three years ago against
Now here he is. On American college football's biggest stage.
Pretorius has come to consider himself a better football than a rugby player and -- as a rugby guy -- says he takes pride in tweaking the stereotype of the soft, not-made-for-contact kicker.
His coach grins. "We do tackling drills just in case they'd have to make one on a kickoff or if there's a block being run back," Rogosheske says, "I see him as more of a typical kicker. I don't think the defensive guys are looking at him and wishing he could play over there. I think he might have been more of a finesse rugby player."