Buckeye Pipelines: Mike Nugent, Kirk Herbstreit, A.J. Hawk and Michael Bennett Among Ohio State's Finest From Centerville

By 11W Staff on March 19, 2022 at 10:10 am
Mike Nugent
Mike Nugent

Buckeye Pipelines puts the spotlight each week on a high school program who has had numerous and notable alumni go on to play for the Scarlet and Gray.

This week, we take a look at a school that has produced 16 Ohio State football players since 1970: Centerville. Since the start of the 21st century, six Elks have played for the Buckeyes, with three of the six players playing in the NFL.

2021 RECORD 8–4



Mike Nugent, arguably Ohio State's best field goal kicker of all-time, was among those players, and he spoke with Eleven Warriors about his experiences at Centerville.

"Still to this day, the discipline I was taught at Centerville has shaped me into the man I am today,” Nugent said. “I would not have had the college or pro career that I did had I not played football at Centerville High School."

Notable Buckeyes from Centerville

QB Kirk Herbstreit (1988-92)

Herbstreit was the team captain and MVP of the 1992 season. Against Michigan as a senior, he completed 28 passes for 271 yards in the 13-13 win tie. At the time, the 28 completions were an Ohio State record against the program's only rival.

During his lone full season as Ohio State’s starting quarterback, Ohio State went 8–3–1, headlined by a 35-12 win over Syracuse, who was ranked eighth in the country.

Following his playing days, Herbstreit started his media career working for 10TV and WBNS Radio in Columbus. Herbstreit was hired by ESPN in 1995 and has been a mainstay on the network ever since, appearing on ESPN’s College GameDay and sharing the booth with Chris Fowler for ABC's Saturday Night Football. Herbstreit also recently signed a deal with Amazon to be an NFL analyst for Thursday Night Football.

At Centerville, Herbstreit led the team to a 10–0 record as a junior and was the Ohio Player of the Year as a senior. He holds the school record with 317 passing yards in a game. He was the first player to commit to Ohio State after John Cooper was named head coach.

Herbstreit paid tribute to his coach at Centerville, Bob Gregg, during a segment on ESPN’s College GameDay in October after Gregg passed away.

K Mike Nugent (2001-04)

Ohio State's only kicker to be named a captain and team MVP, Nugent held or was tied with 17 kicking records when he left for the pros after the 2004 season.

Nugent holds Ohio State’s records for most field goals in a career (68), most field goals in a season (25), consecutive field goals made (24), consecutive field goals made in a season (23), consecutive field goals made in the wind tunnel that is Ohio Stadium (17), 40+ yard field goals made in a season (10) and longest field goal in Ohio Stadium (55), among others.

The 55-yard field goal propelled the Buckeyes to a 24-21 victory as time expired against Marshall in 2004. The next week, he made a 50-yard field goal against NC State which made him the first Ohio State kicker to make back-to-back 50 yard field goals.

Nugent was a two-time All-American and All-Big Ten player (2002, 2004) and won the Lou Groza Award as college football’s best kicker in 2004. He went on to play in the NFL for 16 years after he was selected by the New York Jets in the second round of the 2005 NFL draft.

At Centerville, Nugent set school records by converting 165 extra points and making a 52-yard field goal. He also played quarterback and finished his senior season with three passing and seven rushing touchdowns.

Nugent said his most memorable game at Centerville was a road win over Wayne in 1999, when the Elks went 11-1, suffering their only loss of the season in the regional quarterfinals of the Ohio high school playoffs.

“We were both very highly ranked teams and had become rivals over the years,” Nugent said. “It was a very highly attended game and it was expected to be a shootout. We ended up dominating them the entire game. It was a great way to show how good of a team we actually had that season.”

LB A.J. Hawk (2002-05)

The hard-hitting linebacker was a three-time All-Big Ten player (2003, 2004, 2005), two-time All-American (2004, 2005) and the Buckeyes' captain and team MVP in 2005. Hawk received votes from every player on the team except one to be a captain. The lone player not to vote for No. 47 was Hawk himself.

The awards don't stop there as he also won the Lombardi Award and Jack Lambert Trophy and was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2005. Hawk became the fifth Buckeye to win the Lombardi Award. He was also the Defensive MVP of the 2006 Fiesta Bowl after he destroyed Notre Dame's Brady Quinn, his future brother in-law, in Ohio State's win. 

The Green Bay Packers selected Hawk with the fifth pick of the 2006 NFL Draft, becoming the second-highest Ohio State linebacker ever selected (after 1979 No. 1 overall pick Tom Cousineau). He went on to play in the NFL for 11 years.

Hawk missed most of his senior season at Centerville because of an injury, but still recorded 82 tackles in limited playing time. He finished his high school career with three program records: 583 career tackles, 192 tackles in a season and 30 tackles in a game. Hawk also averaged over 40 yards per punt as a senior.

DT Michael Bennett (2011-14)

Bennett was a captain and All-American defensive tackle on the 2014 national championship team, as he recorded 14 tackles for loss and seven sacks during the Buckeyes’ title-winning season. For his Ohio State career as a whole, Bennett recorded 110 total tackles with 31.5 tackles for loss, 18 sacks, seven forced fumbles, four pass deflections and two fumble recoveries.

He was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 6th round of the 2015 NFL Draft, becoming the first Ohio State player ever selected by the Jaguars. 

At Centerville, Bennett was an All-Ohioan and played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. He helped the Elks make it to the regional finals in 2010. Bennett was also a two-time Great Western Ohio Conference Player of the Year. 

Centerville Buckeyes (1970-2021)
K DOUGLAS McELDOWNEY 1977 Did not see the field in 1977. School record 10 made FGs in a season.
DT/LB TERRY BACH 1977-78 Played in 16 games and had 9 tackles during his 2 seasons with the team. Played in 5 games as a freshman before missing the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. All-Ohio LB.
QB/LB GARY ALDERS 1981-84 Arrived as a QB, but was switched to LB, saw action in 28 contests, had 15 punts for 548 yards in 1981 and recorded 7 tackles in 1984.  Played HB and QB and was an All-Ohioan in baseball.
DT/LB DAVID MORRILL 1981-1984 Led the team in sacks in 1983 (6) and 1984 (4), he was second on the team with 77 tackles in 1984. All-Ohioan whose dad played for That Team.
K SCOTT NEFF 1983 On the roster for one season. His 91-yard run is tied for the longest in school history.
DT PAT THOMAS 1985-89 Bench pressed 400 pounds, played in 43 games and started 13, had 59 tackles, 4 TFL and 2 sacks as a senior.   All-Ohioan at DT, the team was 38–4 during his 3 seasons, also played hockey and track.
QB KIRK HERBSTREIT 1988-92 Captain and MVP in 1992, John Cooper's first verbal commit. Led team to a 10–0 record as a junior, Ohio Player of the Year as a senior.
P JEFF BOHLMAN 1988-90 A walk-on in 1988 who was the starting punter in '88, '89 and '90. Averaged 41.2 yards per punt as a senior, as a junior, he downed 14 of his 41 punts inside the 20 and had a 69 yard punt against USC. Holds the school record with an 80-yard punt and 42.6 average for a season, played WR and caught 35 passes for 594 yards, was an All-Ohioan in baseball.
K JON BERGER 1989-91 Started his collegiate career at Texas A&M in 1987, but transferred to Ohio State in 1988. Was behind Tim Williams on the depth chart in 1990 and 1991, appeared in 4 games in 1990 and had 13 kickoffs. Was a RB for the Elks and went 10–1 as a senior.
FB DERON BROWN 1990-92 Played in 21 games. Graduated in 1990.
K MIKE NUGENT 2001-04 Captain and MVP in 2004, held 17 kicking records when he graduated. Set the school record with 165 made extra-points, 10 PATs in a game and longest FG, played QB as a senior.
LB AJ HAWK 2002-05 3x All-Big Ten, 2x All-American, Lombardi and Lampert Award winner, Big Ten DPOY. 583 tackles in high school, averaged over 40 yards per punt as a senior.
WR BRENT ULLERY 2004-06 On the roster for three seasons. Holds four school punt return records including a program best 90-yard punt return against Xenia.
DL TOM INGHAM 2007-09 Played in 4 games and recorded 1 tackle in 2009. All-Ohioan as a senior.
DL MICHAEL BENNETT 2011-14 Captain of the 2014 national championship team, Academic All-Big Ten in 2012. 2x GWOC Player of the Year, All-Ohioan and U.S. Army All-American, state title in the shot put.
OL EVAN LISLE 2013-16 Played in 26 games for the Buckeyes before leaving for Duke as a graduate transfer for the 2017 season. All-Ohioan, made the USA Today All-American Team and played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, was rated as a Top 5 player in Ohio, 

More about Centerville

Established in 1885, Centerville High School currently has the third largest population of students in the state. It is the only secondary school of the Centerville City School District, which is located ten miles to the south of Dayton. The Elks compete in the Greater Western Ohio Conference and Division 1, Region 2. Centerville went 7–3 in the regular season last year and qualified for the state playoffs, in which they defeated Springboro before losing to Whitmer in the second round.

By qualifying for the playoffs in both 2020 and 2021, Centerville made the post season in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2013 and 2014.The Elks have never won a state title in football.

Across all sports, Centerville has won 16 OHSAA state championships. The girls’ cross country team has a school-high 5 state titles, with the first championship coming in 2014. Girls’ bowling has two titles while baseball, boys’ basketball, girls’ golf, boys’ gymnastics, girls’ gymnastics, hockey, boys’ soccer, girls’ swimming and girls’ track and field each have one state title.

The Elks' boys volleyball team won three state titles when the sport was not sponsored by the OHSAA.  

The legacy of Bob Gregg

After a successful stint at Jefferson High School, Gregg arrived in Centerville in 1973. It took two seasons for the culture surrounding the Elks' football program to reach Gregg's high standards. Following two years that accumulated seven victories, Gregg's teams won 12 straight GWOC titles. 

During his Centerville playing days, Nugent played for Gregg and his successor, Ron Ullery. Their guidance had a positive influence on the Ohio State record setting kicker.

"Playing for these coaches at Centerville mainly centered around discipline,” Nugent said. “Whether it was the 5 a.m. workouts or off-the-field studying, they required you to take responsibility quickly.”

What would be the consequence if a player did not buy into the program and what was being asked of him? 

"If you lacked discipline, you wouldn't be around long,” Nugent said. “Once you learned what it takes to succeed at Centerville, you would have an edge over everyone else because you would be fully prepared for anything thrown your way." 

The discipline and change in culture worked. The Elks won 16 Western Ohio championships and 219 games with Gregg in charge. He collected 301 victories during his coaching career and entered the Ohio High School Coaches Hall of Fame in 1996. You can see Gregg's name on the east wall of Ohio Stadium.

Other famous alumni

In addition to the eight Elks who have gone on to play football at Ohio State, several other athletes from Centerville have also gone on to achieve success in the collegiate and professional ranks in recent years.

Andy Harmon played for the Philadelphia Eagles between 1991 and 1997. He was named second-team All-Pro in 1995 and is second on the Eagles’ all-time sack list.

Sean Murphy won a Gold Glove for the Oakland A's in 2021. He has hammered 28 home runs, 81 runs batted in and has a career batting average of .222. 

Chip Reese is a World Series of Poker legend and considered the greatest cash game player ever. His won over $3,500,000 in tournament winnings and winners of The Poker Player's Championship receive a trophy named in Reese's honor.

Other famous people from Centerville include:

Why are Buckeyes prior to 1970 not highlighted or included in the rankings? Ohio State's official rosters listed the hometown of players, but did not provide their high school on the roster before 1970. 

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