COLUMBUS — So this is what limbo feels like.
Ohio State wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher and a couple hundred other college football players who were not picked in last weekend’s NFL draft are now waiting for the league’s legal wrangling to end so teams can sign them as free agents.
That would open the door for potential pros such as Sanzenbacher, the Buckeyes’ MVP from the 2010 season.
“With the owners and the players still in court and a lockout still in place, nothing can happen until this all gets settled,” Sanzenbacher said Monday. “For me, it’s just continuing to wait. It’s not a comfortable position to be in, but there’s really nothing you can do about it.”
Sanzenbacher (5-11, 182), who most NFL scouts described as “undersized” but equipped with “elite quickness and dependable hands,” had expected to hear his name called in the latter rounds of the draft on Saturday. When that did not happen, in any normal year, the phone rings almost immediately and players considered to have NFL caliber talent get multiple invitations to come to a pro team’s camp and show their stuff.
“By the end of the night, you know your destination and you can get that off your mind,” Sanzenbacher said. “But this is not business as usual. This isn’t an ordinary year.”
Potential free agents remain locked in a state of suspended nonanimation as the feud continues. Talks between the NFL and its players’ union stalled in February, and after the union was decertified in early March, the teams locked the players out. The dispute has bounced around in court since then. If the players receive a favorable ruling soon, the free agent invitations could come out immediately.
“I’m under the assumption that if it gets lifted, even for a day, then the teams can start talking to players about coming in as free agents,” Sanzenbacher said. “So, until that happens, I’ll just continue to finish up at school and keep working out to be ready.”
Sanzenbacher is a marketing major who will graduate from Ohio State in June.
“I fully understand that the NFL is a business, and sometimes these things happen in business. That’s why I’m not super bitter about it.”
But Sanzenbacher, a two-time City League player of the year at Central Catholic, admitted there was significant disappointment that the draft went through its seven rounds and he failed to hear his name called.
“It was no fun. It’s hard because you have a vision of that moment and sharing it with your family. It’s really an uncomfortable experience to sit around that long and not have it happen. I won’t forget how it felt,” Sanzenbacher said.
Most of the experts on all things NFL concur that Sanzenbacher will now get his opportunity in the pros as a free agent. Last season, there were about 60 undrafted free agents on NFL rosters.
Count former City League standout Nate Washington from Scott in that group. Washington, also a wide receiver, was an undrafted free agent out of tiny Tiffin University in 2005 when he was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He won two Super Bowl rings with Pittsburgh before signing a six-year, $27 million deal with the Tennessee Titans in 2009.
“I’m pretty sure that once this thing gets settled, I’ll have an opportunity someplace,” Sanzenbacher said. “I feel like I did everything I could, so I have no regrets about the path that got me to this point. Looking back, it doesn’t really surprise me that much the way things happened, because that’s how my career has gone in the past.”
Despite being a talented two-way performer who led his Central Catholic team to a state championship as a junior, Sanzenbacher did not receive many scholarship offers. When he went to Ohio State on a summer bus tour organized for prospects and worked out in person for the OSU staff, he received Ohio State’s scholarship offer right away.
“This isn’t the ideal scenario, but my agent had teams call and show interest before this lockout started, so that window will open at some point,” Sanzenbacher said. “I chose this, to try and give professional football a shot, so I’ll keep working toward that goal. I’d rather not worry about which teams it might be, and just move forward. That’s about all I can do as long as this lockout is in place.”
Contact Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6510.