“Small” guys with NW Ohio ties making a nameWritten by Mike Bauman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
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Football is a game of strength, endurance, agility and speed, one complete with freakish athletes tough enough and crazy enough to do a lot of damage out on the gridiron. However, perhaps the most tough and crazy among that pigskin brethren are not all of those giant lineman and hulky linebackers who rule with brute force, but rather the much more diminutive, elusive, speedy players at the skill positions who somehow find a way to navigate through the organized chaos that is football and dazzle us with their talent. Several of those “small” guys made an impact on the field this season at both the college and pro levels, with players like Michigan’s Denard Robinson and the Philadelphia Eagles’ DeSean Jackson immediately coming to mind.
Though Robinson and Jackson might be the first two “little” guys people think of when reflecting on the year in football, there are a couple of players with Toledo ties who also had big seasons for their respective teams and received some national recognition, and it would be remiss of a local guy like myself to not recognize each one’s impact on the game in 2010. Those players are the New Orleans Saints’ Lance Moore, Ohio State’s Dane Sanzenbacher and Toledo’s Eric Page. While each one of them is usually classified as a smaller player, they all have unique abilities which set them apart and have allowed them to be successful.
The Gamer. A native of Columbus, Ohio, the 5-9, 190-pound Moore played his college ball for the Rockets and has a knack for making big plays in big games. When Toledo hosted No. 9 Pittsburgh at the Glass Bowl in 2003, Moore caught the game-winning, nine-yard touchdown pass from Bruce Gradkowski with 43 seconds left to give Toledo the 35-31 upset victory over the Panthers. In Super Bowl XLIV last February, Moore made a remarkable catch from Drew Brees on a two-point conversion in which he turned to outstretch the ball across the goal line, giving the Saints a 24-17 lead over the Colts with 5:42 left en route to the championship win. After starting out his pro career as an undrafted free agent back in 2005, Moore has found a home with New Orleans, pulling down 66 receptions for 763 yards and eight touchdowns in the 2010 NFL regular season.
The Playmaker. When Sanzenbacher received a scholarship offer from Buckeyes’ head coach Jim Tressel back in 2006, many doubted whether the 5-11, 180-pound Toledo native and Central Catholic graduate could hang with the big boys at one of the country’s top football programs. Sanzenbacher started his career at Ohio State with a three-yard touchdown catch from Todd Boeckman against Youngstown State on his first collegiate reception, and ended it with a two-touchdown performance in a 31-26 victory over No. 8 Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl Jan. 4. In 2010, he was one of the Buckeyes’ captains, named the most inspirational senior, outstanding receiver and team MVP at the team’s football banquet and received first-team All-Big Ten honors. Still doubting, doubters?
The Athlete. Generously listed at 5-10, the 180-pound Page is usually one of the smallest players on the football field. However, the Toledo native and Springfield graduate has the “it” factor and athleticism that can’t be taught. Even with teams gunning for him this year after he led the Rockets as well as all NCAA freshmen with 82 receptions and 1,159 receiving yards in 2009, Page pressed on and turned in another head-turning season as a sophomore. He was named first-team Walter Camp All-America as a kickoff returner in 2010 after being the only Football Bowl Subdivision player this year to return three kickoffs for touchdowns, averaging 31.8 yards per kickoff return for fourth-best in the nation. The sky appears to be the limit for Page, who again led Toledo in catches and receiving yards with 99 receptions for 1,105 yards and eight touchdowns in 13 games this year, helping the Rockets reach their first bowl game since 2005.
Given the downtrodden economic climate and questionable figures the city of Toledo has endured over the past several years, many forget the names and faces of those who have represented this town with flying colors. With football officially coming to an end in the next couple of weeks, just remember the positive footprint Northwest Ohio has left on the game this season.