Cleveland Connection Brought Wideout To OSU

Ohio State wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher owes the fact that he is suiting up for the Buckeyes this weekend against Toledo to an influential high school coach from Cleveland. In this story, find out how Sanzenbacher found his way to Columbus and who helped him along the way.

To get from Toledo to Columbus, Dane Sanzenbacher first had to go through Cleveland. And Iowa City, Iowa. And Madison, Wis.

Now a junior wide receiver for Ohio State, Sanzenbacher owes his chance to play for the Buckeyes to a bit of luck and a lot of help from Cleveland Glenville head coach Ted Ginn Sr. Following Sanzenbacher's junior year at Toledo Central Catholic, the then-largely unknown prospect was approached by Pete Farris from cross-town rival Toledo St. John's Jesuit with a proposition.

Ginn hosted an annual summer bus tour that took local kids to college camps across the region in order to better expose them to coaches and hopefully land them scholarship offers. Farris approached Sanzenbacher and Central Catholic head coach Greg Dempsey about the possibility of him joining the tour during the summer of 2006.

The decision to do so completely changed the course of Sanzenbacher's career.

"I think Dane's the kind of kid who looked very impressive on film but some people questioned him physically," Dempsey told "I think he's a great player of course, but people see him and they're like, ‘that's him?' They're a little surprised. He's not a big guy. He's not your typical 6-3 receiver with 4.5 speed, but he can just play football. I think he has next speed – he's faster than the guy next to him."

Once Sanzenbacher was on the tour that took about three dozen kids to camps at Mid-American Conference and Big Ten schools, Ginn immediately put him at the top of the list of players he was promoting to coaches. Sanzenbacher had finished fourth in the 400-meter dash at the state track finals with a time of 48.60, and that performance had endeared him to the Glenville coach who also heads his school's track team.

"At every stop on the Big Ten I would talk to coaches and say, ‘Hey, see that guy right here?' I'd say, ‘You need to sign him,' " Ginn said. "Everybody kind of laughed at me when I was talking about him. I said, ‘OK, you'd better sign him. He's going to hurt you.' "

According to Dempsey, he knew things were going well shortly after Sanzenbacher joined the tour. While coaching in the Big 33 game in Pennsylvania, Dempsey received a phone call from Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz asking about the wide receiver.

"I said, ‘Well, he must've done pretty well there.' He goes, ‘Did well? After talking to you, I'm going to offer him,' " Dempsey said. "I'm like, ‘wow, you're kidding me.' He goes, ‘no, he's a great player. What stinks is I know in two weeks when this bus tour ends he's going to end up at Ohio State and they're going to offer him.'

"I go, ‘you really think so?' He goes, ‘If they saw what I saw today, that kid will leave Ohio State with an offer.' "

Despite an impressive highlight tape from a season that saw Central Catholic bring home a state title, OSU head coach Jim Tressel was among those who were initially skeptical of Sanzenbacher upon first glance.

"Their bus rolled in and … Coach Ginn came up to me and said, ‘Hey. I'm going to tell you who the best guy on this bus is,' and he pointed to Dane," Tressel said. "I said, ‘Him?' He said, ‘I promise you, he'll bring it every practice.' "

Sanzenbacher was not a complete unknown to the OSU staff, however. Running backs coach Dick Tressel recruits the Toledo area and had been around to talk to Dempsey about him and even took in a practice at Bowling Green as Central Catholic was preparing for the state finals. It was there that the OSU assistant coach compared Sanzenbacher to Buckeye slot receiver Anthony Gonzalez.

Ferentz's fears proved true, and in late June Sanzenbacher landed a scholarship offer from the Buckeyes based on large part to his performance at their camp. Dempsey was walking up a stairway outside Central Catholic when he found himself taking a phone call from Tressel similar to the one he had received from Ferentz.

As Dempsey recalled, Tressel said the Buckeyes had no other choice but to offer Sanzenbacher.

"Once (Sanzenbacher) went against some guys (OSU) had offered, (Tressel) told me, ‘Since we have guys that we have offered that are defensive backs that couldn't cover him, I guess we'd better offer him,' " Dempsey said.

If not for Ginn's tour, Sanzenbacher said things would look a little different this weekend when the Buckeyes head to Cleveland to face Toledo. Prior to heading out on the tour, Sanzenbacher held just one scholarship and it was from the Rockets.

Then-head coach Tom Amstutz showed Sanzenbacher around Toledo's facilities the day after he landed his OSU offer, but the wideout said he did not feel intense pressure to stay home.

"I wouldn't say (the pressure) was too bad, especially after the Ohio State offer came," he said. "There are as many Buckeye fans as there are Rocket fans in Toledo, so it wasn't too bad.

"I went through their facilities and everything but I wanted to keep my options open and then the Ginn Tour came along and I couldn't pass up being a Buckeye."

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