Central graduate relishes role in annual rivalry gameWritten by Chris Schmidbauer | | firstname.lastname@example.org
It has been an unlikely journey for Dane Sanzenbacher. It was just a few years ago that playing at Ohio State seemed more of a fantasy than a reality.
Back then, Sanzenbacher was catching passes on Friday nights for the Central Catholic Fighting Irish. He had received only a few college football offers, until Sanzenbacher signed up for a bus trip.
The trip was organized by Cleveland Glenville High School coach Ted Ginn Sr. and he had invited Sanzenbacher and other players to come along and showcase their athletic talents at many different colleges across the Midwest. Once the Central Catholic standout showed the Buckeyes what he could do on the field, Ohio State offered Sanzenbacher a scholarship on the spot.
Today, he is catching passes on Saturdays in Columbus as a member of the Buckeyes. In a short amount of time, the junior wide receiver has gone from relative unknown to a star with instant recognition among college football fans.
On Nov. 21, Sanzenbacher will have an opportunity to once again impact the Ohio State – Michigan rivalry, something the Toledo native grew up revering.
“It is just so unbelievable to me,” Sanzenbacher said. “It is surreal to me that I still get to play in the Ohio State-Michigan game.”
Since he first set foot in Columbus, the Glass City’s native son has been making plays. Sanzenbacher caught a touchdown pass in his very first game against Youngstown State in 2007, and he has not stopped turning heads since.
Last season, Sanzenbacher played an even larger role in the Ohio State offense, becoming one of the teams’ top three receivers. He made 21 catches for 272 yards and one touchdown for the 2008 season.
With Ohio State losing it its top two receivers heading into this season, Sanzenbacher would be counted on to lead a young receiver corps.
“It was a position I was not expecting at first,” he said. “I just try and lead by example more than anything. I do not have to be a vocal guy, and I just am where I am supposed to be and do what I am supposed to do.”
At times, it has been trying times for Sanzenbacher and the Buckeyes throughout this season. With a close loss against USC in the season’s second week and an upset loss at Purdue a few weeks ago, many criticized the team, especially the offense. Sanzenbacher feels the adversity has made him and the Buckeyes a stronger team.
“Overcoming adversity has been the biggest thing for us this year,” Sanzenbacher said. “We have had a couple of tough losses and it has brought us closer together as a team. Obviously, no one likes to lose games, but in the same sense, we have been able to pull together and believe in each other more.”
The Buckeyes will face another test in Ann Arbor on Nov. 21 when the Buckeyes take on the Michigan Wolverines in the 110th meeting between the two schools, and Sanzenbacher knows how important this game is to the Buckeyes.
“It is just so unbelievable with the atmosphere leading up to it,” he said. “It is hard not to get caught up in the all the festivities and hype that surrounds the game. We try and stay focused on the game, but it is just such an exciting time around here.”
The wide receiver knows from experience that the rivalry game has a unique importance to his hometown.
“Growing up in Toledo and being so close to the border, the Ohio State- Michigan game takes on a life of its own,” he said. “It is almost like its own little holiday with people throwing parties, and it is just so big. I do not think people realize how big the game is to people in Northwest Ohio.”
For his part, Sanzenbacher still finds it hard to believe, that after three years into his playing career, that he still gets to play in the greatest rivalry in college football.
“It is just such a big game and I do not ever take it for granted,” Sanzenbacher said. “I still remember planning with friends on whose house we were going to watch the game at. Now that I get to actually play in the game is still so unbelievable to me.”
As of press time the Buckeyes game versus Iowa had yet to be decided, but by the Michigan game, Ohio State may have already clinched the Big Ten championship, as well as a spot in the Rose Bowl. Sanzenbacher said the possibility would be a dream come true for him and the rest of the Buckeyes.
“That has been our goal since the beginning of the year,” Sanzenbacher said. “We want to go to the Rose Bowl, and it is one of those premiere bowl games that you set as a goal for yourself at the beginning of the season. It would be great to accomplish that achievement.”
Whatever transpires against Iowa, Sanzenbacher and his teammates will be ready to play in Ann Arbor come time for kickoff.
“I remember my freshman year and by playing I was able to understand what the game is all about,” Sanzenbacher said. “There is so much at stake, and I am sure it will be the exact same way this year.”