Football kickers tend to veer towards the eccentric side, and Ohio State place-kicker Ryan Pretorius only follows suit. Growing up he always thought he'd be playing before large, boisterous crowds. Except he thought he'd be playing rugby, not football.
Pretorius, born in Durban, South Africa moved to England when he was 18 to pursue his rugby dream. American football? Forget about it! He didn't even become interested in the sport until he watched Rudy and Jerry Maguire. But once his rugby career stalled, he had to put his foot to use somehow, didn't he?
While in Denver on a vacation, he spoke with former NFL kicker Gary Anderson, who is also a native of Durban and a family friend. Anderson urged Pretorius to make a video of his kicking abilities.Pretorius sent out his tape to about 20 schools asking for a tryout and was turned down by all of them. But upon visiting family friends in Columbus he was able to finagle an opportunity to join the team with the ability to earn a scholarship. Pretorius took it, and began his new life. A rugby player at 18, Pretorius became a college student and football player at 25. It was a foreign game in a foreign land, and he had a lot to learn.
"For me the toughest thing was kicking with shoulder pads and a helmet on," he said. "I had never done it and hardly knew anyone who had. And then just being able to trust someone holding a ball for you."
Pretorius had friends film him making field goals from 40 to 60 yards, and kicking off through the uprights from 75 yards away.
"I didn't even know how to put on my uniform," he said. "(Former fullback) Stan White's locker was two away from me and he said, 'You need some help there, buddy?' I was like, 'Yeah. Please.' I didn't have a clue. My first game I ran out for was Marshall here in Ohio Stadium. I was relieved I didn't have to kick in that game because I probably wouldn't know when to run on."Now a 28 year-old Junior, he's earned a scholarship, and is the starting kicker for the Buckeyes. In his first start against Youngstown State he made five PATs and a 24-yard field goal. It's an amazing story - three continents, two sports, and lots of mileage in-between, this legendary team has a kicker with quite the story.