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OSU/NFL DRAFT Walk-on Groom could be selected



Published: Mon, April 28, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Michael Doss and Kenny Peterson could go as high as the first round.

COLUMBUS (AP) -- Andy Groom has come so far, why not go all the way?

A life marked by a succession of athletic surprises might just climb over another mountainous hurdle this weekend if Groom's name pops up in the NFL draft.

"I couldn't have written it any better," Groom said quietly while watching a recent Ohio State spring football practice. "It's been a great ride."

Progression

The scrawny kid with flyaway hair walked on the Ohio State team and surprised everyone but himself by making the team as a kicker and holder. Redshirted his first year, he only got in during two blowout games in 1999.

A year later, the graduate of Columbus' Bishop Hartley High School lettered as a holder. His family thought he had reached the pinnacle when he picked up a blocked punt near the Ohio State goal line and scrambled 11 yards for a first down against Iowa.

He wasn't done.

The next year he defied the odds by beating out acclaimed recruit B.J. Sander to become the first-string punter. He was a bright spot in a 7-5 season, averaging 45 yards a kick.

A year ago was the capper. He again averaged 45 yards on 60 punts and was a first-team Associated Press All-American as Ohio State won the national championship.

"If you're coming in as a walk-on, not everything is going to go your way and you've got to work your tail off," Groom said. "You come here and you're going to get your fair shot. It's up to you when you get that shot to make the best of it."

Now Groom awaits word on the draft. When a reporter suggests that it might be unrealistic to expect to be drafted -- most teams sign free agents to fill the punter position -- Groom refuses to even consider the alternative.

Confident

"I'd better be drafted. I'm not going to be happy if I don't get drafted," he said. "I've been hearing different rounds, fourth through sixth. It all depends on the team. I've got a few teams that I'm the No. 1 punter on their board. It doesn't matter what Mel Kiper says or what anybody else says. It's all about the team. Some teams like different guys."

Several of Groom's Ohio State teammates also are going to be waiting by the phone. Safety Michael Doss and defensive tackle Kenny Peterson could go as high as the first round. Linebackers Cie Grant and Matt Wilhelm, safety Donnie Nickey, defensive tackle David Thompson and flanker Chris Vance will have their fingers crossed.

Groom is optimistic, perhaps unreasonably so.

"Hopefully things will work out in the next couple of weeks and I'll still be playing football," he said.




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