Reporting Adam Hoge
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By Adam Hoge-
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (CBS) — Dane Sanzenbacher wanted to be a Bear even before the NFL Draft.
After leading Ohio State with 55 receptions, 948 receiving yards, and 11 receiving touchdowns as a senior, Sanzenbacher was labeled as one of those “fringe” guys before April’s draft. At 5-11, 180 pounds, scouts knew he could catch the ball, but had doubts about his size.
And when Sanzenbacher went undrafted, his decision was relatively easy.
“It was a place we had in mind as a good fit even before the draft started, so obviously when it came down to post-draft and you get to pick, (Chicago) was up there on our list,” Sanzenbacher said. “I didn’t want to make it about the money part of it. (It was more about) opportunity and offensive fit of it, so we thought it was a good fit.”
The wideout said there were higher offers on the table than what the Bears gave him, but he believes Mike Martz’s offense gives him “the best shot to get on the field.”
Nearly three weeks into training camp, Sanzenbacher has given himself a good chance to make the Bears’ 53-man roster. He fits the mold of a Wes Welker-type slot receiver and the Bears currently list him as a third-teamer on the depth chart. Despite not having a catch in the Bears’ first preseason game, Sanzenbacher has been a frequent target in practice and the coaches are giving him every opportunity to prove himself. He’s been involved in special teams and returned a punt against the Bills.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done,” he said. “I feel like it starts to slow down for me more every day so it’s a good thing to be able to just go out and play once you know what’s going on. (Making the team) is out of my control so I don’t think about it too much.”
While Sanzenbacher believes the Martz offense gives him a chance to succeed, he still admits it is a challenge to grasp every aspect of the system.
“It’s a lot different (from Ohio State),” he said. “Anytime you come into a new system, there’s going to be a lot thrown at you at once and you’re going to be expected to learn it. There’s just a lot of details that you’ve got to get down. It’s very hard to perfect it and I mean, you go through your whole career and probably not have every bit down because it’s constantly evolving.”
Sanzenbacher got out of Columbus, Ohio at just the right time. He was still there preparing for the Sugar Bowl last December when the improper benefits scandal broke, but he was never implicated as a participant and has largely watched it all play out from the outside.
“It’s been a tough situation from the beginning, obviously being a part of it when it was starting to go down,” he said. “I didn’t think it would get to this point, to be honest, but they have a great staff over there. The players that are there that are going to lead this team this year, I think it’s a good squad so I have no doubt they’ll be able to pull out of it.”
Part of the reason why Sanzenbacher was able to break receiving records at Ohio State was because Terrelle Pryor was his quarterback during his last three seasons. But, Pryor is also at the center of the scandal at Ohio State, and the receiver said he hasn’t talked to him since Pryor decided to leave the Buckeyes early. Still, Sanzenbacher believes his former quarterback can have success in the NFL.
“I think he’ll get a shot somewhere,” Sanzenbacher said. “I think he’s too talented not to. And I think he has all the physical tools to be able to do it. It will just be getting down that mental part of it, trying to absorb as much as you can and learn. So I’ve always said he’s got a shot.”
As for the common question regarding Pryor: Is he a quarterback or a wide receiver in the NFL?
“I think he’s a quarterback,” Sanzenbacher said. “For sure.”
Adam is the Sports Content Producer for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox, Blackhawks and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.