Dane Sanzenbacher on Life in the NFL

By Kyle Rowland on July 10, 2013 at 12:10p
Sanzenbacher in the end zone: a familiar sight at Ohio State.

Everyone's favorite undersized, frequently doubted wide receiver, Dane Sanzenbacher, recently spoke about his up-and-down first two seasons in the NFL. The 5-foot-11, 184-pounder has always been in the position to prove people wrong. Opinions have frequently been negative when it comes to his ability to produce, but at each step he's had the last laugh.

At Toledo Central Catholic, Sanzenbacher was a two-time All-Ohioan and helped lead the Fighting Irish to a state title in 2005. He didn't receive much attention from recruiters until appearing on the Ted Ginn Bus Tour, but when Ohio State offered, Sanzenbacher gladly — and quickly — accepted. All he did during four years in Columbus was catch 121 passes, 19 of them touchdowns, for 1,820 yards. Sanzenbacher was named the team MVP his senior season. 

The cycle continued again when he entered the NFL. Too small, not fast enough. The slights came from all over. But as an undrafted free agent, he had 27 receptions for 276 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie with the Chicago Bears. Year 2, however, yielded one catch in four games and a trade to the Cincinnati Bengals. 

“I probably learned more my second year than I did my first,” Sanzenbacher said. “My rookie year I kind of got thrown into it and my head was just spinning. Even though the numbers don’t show it, I think I progressed as a player that second year.

“You take that experience and carry it on to the next year. I’m getting a fresh start in Cincinnati. You carry over the confidence you’ve gained, and all the little things you’ve learned. It’s my third year, and I think it’s a good time for me to progress. I think it’s really going to be a good situation for me.”

Sanzenbacher enters training camp as one of 10 receivers on the Bengals' roster. Six of them will be on the opening game roster. 

“At this point you don’t want to let yourself get so excited about camp that you burn yourself out,” Sanzenbacher said of his offseason workout routine. “It’s a long season. You’ve got four preseason games and then 17 weeks. You just want to make sure you’re as healthy and ready to go as possible. You have to be as physically and mentally as ready as you can be when you walk in the door.”

Disproving people has never been an issue for the affable Sanzenbacher. 


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southbymidwest's picture

I hope he sticks with the Bengals and does well. Always liked Sanzenbacher. Now I'll have to pay attention to the Bengals with Sanzenbacher, Fragel, Herron and Nugent on the team. Hope they all stick and do well.

AndyVance's picture

No kidding - those are four fan favorites of recent Buckeye memory, for sure. Here's hoping they all do well at the next level!

Cincinnati Mac's picture

REALLY hope he sticks as the 6th WR instead of Ryan Whalen. He can backup Hawkins in the slot.
And he wasn't traded to the Bengals. He was cut by Chicago and the Bengals picked him up off waivers. The Bengals wanted to sign him after he wasn't drafted but he chose Chicago.

ATXbucknut's picture

Best hands of any WR I've seen at OSU. He held onto EVERYTHING, and boy did he take some licks during his time at OSU.  Some of the shots he took from DBs after catching the ball I was sure would keep him down and/or knock him out of the game. Somehow he would always hold onto the ball and get right back up.  One of my all-time favorite OSU WRs.

avail31678's picture

Agreed.  Love him.  He just MADE plays.  He was always at the right place at the right time.  In the Sugar Bowl, he was right there to scoop up the ball for a TD right when TP fumbled.  Against PSU, wasn't he right there when a long TD pass got bobbled by a different receiver and it landed right in his hands?
ALso, yes, he did take some licks.  I'm pretty sure he's the one who got knocked out and/or got a concussion against Wisconsin in TP's freshman year, no?

Crimson's picture

Love Sanzenbacher.  Hope Cincy puts him in a place to succeed.

AndyVance's picture

One of my absolute favorite players to watch - he had some electrifying grabs during his time at Ohio State. I'd love to see him do well in Cincinnati - he's definitely got the right attitude.

SilverState's picture

Good to hear an update...one of my favorite players.

theobi's picture

Still my favorite Buckeye, I hope he has a fantastic career on my favorite NFL team.

Jangs78's picture

Wish he was a Bear still....was really upset an how under utilized he was last year before being cut.  Kick some a$$ in Cincy this year and show us what we missed out on, Dane!

buckeye1129's picture

Giving credit to Avail for first bringing this up, but after watching the 2010/11 Sugar Bowl I knew Dane was capable of anything in the pros.  Awareness? Check. He beat out 3 Arkansas players to scoop up that first quarter Pryor fumble for a touchdown.  
Athleticism? Check.  Not many wideouts can make the type of touchdown catch Dane had in the second quarter.  He dove, nabbed the ball a foot from the turf, and rolled over to pin it against his legs for an assured TD.  It was like he was thinking about the replay official reviewing the play before he even caught the ball.  Did I mention he had good awareness?  Only elite, as in professional, receivers make those types of plays.  I'm not sure Posey could have done it as well.
Speaking of Posey, although he was considered by the League to be the best WR on that team, which he potentially was, Dane simply made more plays.  Posey was the deep threat, Sanzenbacher was the go-to guy on say, 3rd and 7.  That brings me to:
Toughness? Check.  A great example is the Rose Bowl against Oregon.  There was a play, pretty easy to recall, where Boyett flipped Dane's shit, I mean literally took his legs out so hard he flipped him and made him land on his head.  While I was watching a replay of that game, I noticed that the next drive, just a few minutes later, #12 was right back on the field throwing blocks and making plays.  
He has everything that the league wants in a receiver, although he is slightly undersized. He is right up there with Ted Ginn and David Boston as one of my favorite Buckeye recievers of all time.

Moses Cleveland's picture

I remember when Sanzenbacher came out of Central Catholic High School in Toledo, OH ... I was a student at UT at the time, and I was so happy a player from Northwest Ohio was going to Ohio State and not scUM.
I hate the Bengals, but I hope Dane makes the roster and plays a few games on Monday Night Football, just so I can hear Gruden say, "Sanzenbacher"

causeicouldntgo43's picture

Chucky (Jon Gruden) said during one of his QB shows (I think the one with Pryor?) that Dane Saaaaaaaaaanzenbacher not being drafted was a crime as he considered him one of the best of the crop. Here's hoping he makes the Bengals so I have another Buckeye to cheer for................... 

Cincinnati Mac's picture

And its Chucky's younger brother Jay that is now Dane's Offensive Coordinator.

rekrul's picture

If for some reason Cincy does'nt keep him I think Belichick would give him a look and be a great landing spot for him.  Especially seeing how well the slot does with Brady and the fact they are so short handed on the WR side of things.  Not to mention Belichick seems to pull these underdogs in and play them, ala Danny Woodhead and not that Welker was a no name but no one would have predicted the numbers he put up once he was at NE.
Not a Pats fan but would love to see Dane have a 60+ catch season.

Out Work, Out Think, Out Play!!!

Hovenaut's picture

Hard working kid with great hands, and certain he's a team first guy with a solid locker room demeanor.

Those are very marketable qualities, seemingly few and far between among WRs in the NFL.

Good luck Dane.

Maestro's picture

As much as it pains me to see him playing for the Bungles, I wish him nothing but the best.

vacuuming sucks

German Buckeye's picture

Man all this Bengal hate.  I really don't understand why so many on 11W have such dislike for this Ohio professional football club.  I like both the Browns and Bengals but since I'm from the Dayton area, do root a little more for the Bengals due to geography.  You won't see me posting such venom though against the Browns.  I save that for the Steelers and Ravens.  The Bengals have actually been pretty good the last 3-4 years and have been drafting well and picking up solid players. 
Go Bengals, Browns and of course Bucks! 

Maestro's picture

Division foes, divided family foes.

vacuuming sucks

harleymanjax's picture

You can't like BOTH teams! That's like rooting for the Buckeyes and TTUN!............That's about as dumb as chanting SEC SEC SEC SEC!

"Because I couldn't go for 3"

redfox's picture

Bengals 1st Browns 2nd i like both as they are Ohio teams just like the Bengals a little better.

redfox's picture

I hate both the Steelers and the Ravens with a passion.

pjtobin's picture

Sanz was a stud. I'm very glad he is still a pro. Good luck to him. Thanks for the update. It was a great read. 

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad. 

luckynutz's picture

The great dane is one of my favorite buckeyes of all time. Was never afraid to do the dirty work. Across the middle? No problem. Run blocking? You got it. Go up high to make a grab, knowing the safety is going to blow you up? Consider it done. Dane always seemed to find the right spot as well...he was the king of being ridiculously open. First game of the year in browns stadium...think it was '09. Split the safeties on a go route...not a defender close. 75 yards. Td. Seemed like no one even bothered to cover him. He personified what it meant to be a buckeye to me...selfless, never afraid to go above and beyond for his team and always humble and appreciative of the opportunity to wear the scarlet and gray. Who wouldn't love that?

Eddie-Eddie's picture

Best of luck Dane!!  Hope you have a good stay in Cincy.

unholy bucknut's picture

Good pick up for the Bengals. Dane was a beast during his time in Columbus. I hope he gets a chance to prove himself in Cincy. He could possibly be that much needed security blanket for the ginger ninja. Given the opportunity.

southernstatesbuckeye's picture

My game of choice is college football.  I don't actively watch a lot of NFL until playoffs...but reading that so many of our favorite players are Bengals, I will now follow them with more interest.
And that pains me to say, because I am a closet Browns fan...but like the dead guy who wanted his pall bearers to be Browns "so they could let me down one more time", I have a morbid fascination with how bad the Browns could possibly get from year to year.
It's almost like they are stuck in some sort of time stoppage capsule from when they teleported to Baltimore.  We never got over being an expansion team.  It's just eerie.
So I just stopped watching years ago is all.
But yeah, always wanna see my Bucks excel in the NFL wherever they land.

I like cookies.

kb1's picture

^ Its like I wrote this myself.

ColerainBuckeye33's picture

Dane is a beast and while he doesnt posses the electricity of Hawkins in the slot he is way more reliable and should snatch a roster spot.

A wise man once said "success is not final and failure is not fatal"

burkmon's picture

Had Dane at our home for a fund raiser and he was the star attraction. We put him in a dunk tank and women paid just to see him with his shirt off (lots of great photo ops). Needless to say, we made lots of money for the James that night! He is a great guy.