I am sure all of you remember fan-favorite Dane Sanzenbacher, a four-year contributor to Buckeye football who racked up over 120 catches, 1,800 yards and 19 touchdowns in scarlet and gray. After completing his 2010-2011 senior season at OSU, Sanzenbacher entered the 2011 NFL Draft but came away disappointed and undrafted. Fortunately for Dane, he had contract offers from numerous NFL teams within a day of the draft. Quickly, Sanzenbacher signed with my favorite NFL team, the Chicago Bears. Within an hour of local Chicago news breaking the Sanzenbacher to Chicago story, I received numerous text messages from fellow Bears fans expressing their excitement (and sometimes disappointment) of my beloved Buckeye joining the “Monsters of the Midway.”
Before the 2011 season, my friends and I decided to make the trip from the western suburbs of Chicago to Bourbonnais, IL, the site of Chicago Bears training camp. Now, just to be clear, my fanhood and knowledge of Chicago Bears football comes in a distant 3rd to Buckeye football and basketball. I had never before had the opportunity to experience my Buckeyes and Bears all in one setting. Like an idiot, I threw on my Devier Posey 2009 Nike Pro Combat Buckeye jersey (really wished my parents had decided to go with #12 instead of #8 when deciding which player jersey to get me) to show my Buckeye pride in Bourbonnais. For the duration of the night training camp session, I cheered and screamed my head off for the former Buckeye. I’m fairly certain that I single-handedly raised the expectations for Dane in 2011 to an unimaginable level for all Bears fans in attendance that night.
That training camp, Sanzenbacher made the team and beat out Canadian football star Andy Fantuz. In his first season in the NFL, he played in every game for the Chicago Bears, including one start. Sanzenbacher tallied 27 passes for 276 yards and 3 touchdowns as a rookie with the Bears. Not too bad for an undrafted guy who barely eked out a spot on the roster. However, Dane’s production on the field in 2011 was not all positive. He recorded 7 dropped passes, tied for the most on the team. Let me assure you, I did not come out unscathed from all of this. For every one of those 7 drops registered by Sanzenbacher, I received 2-3 text messages from friends who were not too pleased and claimed I had deceived them of Dane’s true ability.
Coming into the 2012 NFL season, Dane will certainly have to fight yet again to earn a spot on the Chicago Bears roster. The Bears typically take 6 receivers, and with spots seemingly already filled in off-season acquisitions Brandon Marshall, Eric Weems, Devin Thomas and Alshon Jeffery and returning Bears Devin Hester and Earl Bennett, odds did not seem high for Sanzenbacher. However, Dane’s chances increased momentarily when Devin Thomas retired from the NFL on August 5. But, naturally, the Bears immediately signed savvy special teams veteran Rashied Davis. As it stands now, it seems like Dane has some work to do in order to make this roster. It can’t hurt that Bears QB Jay Cutler has an on- and off-the-field bond with Sanzenbacher. According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, Cutler states, “every single day he’s coming out here, he’s catching balls. … He’s going to be hard to let go, if we have to.” Dane certainly has his work cut out for him; that’s for sure. I’ll be rooting for him hard and may make another trip to Bourbonnais this year to try and sway the coaching staff and fan base just one more time…