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Published: Friday, 9/18/2009

How Dane Sanzenbacher almost became a Toledo Rocket

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Fate just kind of lined it all up for him.

"I might have been on the other sideline this weekend - you never know," Sanzenbacher said.

The Ohio State junior wide receiver and former Central Catholic standout today rode the Buckeyes' bus to Cleveland for tomorrow's game in Browns Stadium against the team from his hometown - the Rockets. It took a chain of events to land the Toledo kid with the Columbus team on that field in Cleveland.

After Sanzenbacher's junior season at Central, where he helped the Irish win the Division II state championship with two touchdown catches in the title game, Sanzenbacher was offered a scholarship to play for the Rockets.

"I believe they were actually my first offer, but that was before the bus tour," Sanzenbacher said about UT's interest in him following that 2005 season in which he had 65 receptions for 16 touchdowns and also made 11 interceptions and earned first-team all-state honors.

"I obviously considered it, being a hometown guy, but I wanted to wait and see what was going to happen."

What happened was an unsolicited call from an assistant coach at City League rival St. John's Jesuit, asking Greg Dempsey, Sanzenbacher's coach at Central, if Dempsey's star player was interested in making a whirlwind bus tour of colleges in the Midwest with other high school players. The tour was arranged by Cleveland Glenville head coach Ted Ginn Sr. to get his players more exposure, but was expanded to include players from other schools in the state.

"I wasn't actually planning on going to a lot of camps or going on a big camp tour," Sanzenbacher said before practice at the Woody Hayes Center in Columbus this week. "But I thought it couldn't hurt, so I got on it, and that pretty much made my decision easy by getting an offer from here."

Ohio State liked what it saw and immediately offered Sanzenbacher a scholarship. Iowa offered one as well.

"The day after I was done with the Ginn tour I went and met with coach [Tom] Amstutz and did the whole walk-through at Toledo," Sanzenbacher said. "They weren't too pushy about it, and I don't think that they normally offered too many hometown kids, so I was honored that I even got the offer in the first place."

Sanzenbacher, a two-time City League player of the year, said he did not feel compelled to stay home and play for the Rockets.

"There was not too much pressure, especially after the Ohio State offer came," Sanzenbacher said. "There's probably just as many Buckeyes fans as Rockets fans in Toledo, so it wasn't too bad, and I couldn't pass up being a Buckeye."

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said the OSU coaches immediately liked what they saw from Sanzenbacher, who had played wide receiver, quarterback and safety for Central Catholic, and also returned kicks.

"Dane was obviously a very fast football player, and a guy who knew what was going on out there," Tressel said. "We were impressed with his competitive nature and his football smarts, and we were convinced he was a quality young man who would be an asset to our program. We're thrilled to have him."

Sanzenbacher had played a couple of games each season in UT's Glass Bowl stadium during high school, and said he attended Toledo games to see former Rockets quarterback Bruce Gradkowski lead a high-scoring UT offense.

"It's Toledo. You've got the Mud Hens, you've got Tony Packo's and you've got the Rockets," Sanzenbacher said. "That's pretty much what you've got, so I grew up going to the games in the Glass Bowl . . . but I couldn't really call myself a fan."

Still, his juxtaposition with the hometown team tomorrow in Cleveland will remind Sanzenbacher that he could be wearing midnight blue and gold, with "Toledo" emblazoned across his chest, if he had passed up that summer bus trip.

"I'm very excited about this game. It's going to be a little bit weird looking across the field and seeing the blue and yellow over there," he said.

"But I guess I'll have to deal with it."

Contact Matt Markey at

mmarkey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6510.



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