There aren’t many Cincinnati Bengals who have been in the NFL longer than kicker Mike Nugent.
And if the Centerville native has his way, he’ll still be kicking field goals long after most of his current teammates have retired.
“I’ve always thought in my head that I won’t be at the tip of my peak until I’m 35, and I’m only 32 right now,” said Nugent, entering his 10th season, fifth with the Bengals.
“I want to get 20 seasons in, so I’ve got 11 left,” Nugent said. “I think 20 would be awesome. It’s pretty cool to say I’ve played nine years. Ten would be amazing. Fifteen would be incredible and 20 would be almost unheard of. I really look up to those guys who did play 20 years.”
The average career length for NFL players who make their team’s opening-day roster is 3.5 years, but kickers tend to last much longer due to the specialist nature of their skills and the lack of pounding they take compared to other positions on the field.
And their careers seem to be getting longer while the other positions continue to shrink.
Despite having nine years under his belt, Nugent’s 202 career field-goal attempts rank only 19th among active kickers. And he’s 18th with 164 made field goals.
But his recent performance backs up his belief that his career is still on an upward arc. In his last three years, Nugent has made 84.3 percent (70 of 83) of his field-goal attempts, compared to 82.4 percent (75 of 91) during his first three years in the league.
“I still have room to get better and I don’t feel like time is running out on that,” he said. “I’m kicking better than I was last year or two years ago or three years ago. And I’m stronger kickoff-wise. I feel like I’m doing a better job in terms of the depth of my kickoffs and the placement and things like that.”
While teammates were sweating it out during Tuesday’s OTA practice at Paul Brown Stadium, Nugent leisurely walked alongside punter Kevin Huber as he worked on fielding snaps from special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons.
And last Tuesday, Nugent spent most of practice shagging punts that found their way into the seats as the punters kicked from sideline to sideline.
“Right now I only kick three days a week, and Tuesday is one of my off days,” he said. “You could always say I could just kick at home, but there’s nothing like being around those guys and around everyone else. This will be Darrin, Kevin, Clark (Harris, the long snapper) and my fifth year together, and there’s no comparison to not only snapping and holding with those guys, but to look at film together and just working together.”
Nugent and his wife Emily recently celebrated their second wedding anniversary, and he said matrimony has caused him to think more about life after football. But he hasn’t started making plans.
“I’ve always felt like yeah, it’s smart to think about life after football, but I feel like if I start thinking about that it will take away from me giving 100 percent to football,” Nugent said. “I would hate to leave the game with any regrets.
“If I decided I’m going to do something to set myself up for the future, it’s going to take away from working out and kicking, and that would be a terrible regret to say I could have worked harder,” he added. “That would be the worst way to leave the NFL. I’ve always had the attitude that that will not happen. That will never be the reason when I’m done playing.”