Statistic Resume: Played Wide Receiver from 2007-2010, 124 receptions, 1,879 yards, 19 touchdowns, 1 fumble recovery touchdown, 2007-2010 Big Ten Champions
Technically this is the “worst” player on the list (shows you how prestigious Ohio St. football is when the worst on my list managed to have a four-year, 43 game NFL career). Perhaps more interesting, I doubt that you would see Sanzenbacher on any other Buckeye fan’s top 10 list. Even as a kid, I just found the scrappy 5’11”, 180 pound receiver endearing, and I couldn’t bring myself to keeping him off the list.
For any who did not enjoy the immense pleasure of watching Dane last decade, a good comparison would be Clemson cult hero Hunter Renfrow. He had nowhere near elite speed, but he always seemed to have enough burst to break big plays in big moments. He ran picture perfect routes and his hands might as well have had super glue on them. Most importantly, he just always seemed to be in the right place at the right time.
Just take these two plays during his senior year of 2010: With the Buckeyes holding a slim 17-14 lead over Penn St. in the fourth quarter, Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor launched a pass 60 yards towards deep threat Devier Posey. However, Posey was double covered, and all three of the players simultaneously pursued the pigskin, leading to it bouncing off their hands and descending towards the turf. But there was Dane, who continued running with the play even as the ball did not come his way, and caught the deflected deep pass for a win-securing touchdown. He followed up that fortunate bounce with an outright robbery in the 2011 Sugar Bowl against Arkansas. Pryor was in the midst of a 30 yard scramble when he stumbled around the 10 yard line and subsequently fumbled. An all out mosh pit of Arkansas Razorbacks ensued, and twice it appeared that they had recovered the ball, only for it to squirt out towards the end zone. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Sanzenbacher leaped into the fray as the lone Buckeye and in one fell swoop retrieved the football for a touchdown, somehow keeping his sprawling feet from touching the out of bound line. It’s those kinds of plays that make football all awesome. It’s those kind of plays that made Dane Sanzenbacher awesome.
Being a sports junky, I’m often fascinated by quirky and fun names, and let’s face it, Sanzenbacher is one heck of last name. If someone heard that sharp-syllabled name without knowing the player, I’m sure they’d picture him as a grizzly linebacker or a mountainous offensive lineman. Nope. Just you’re typical standout wide receiver at one of the best programs in the country. I think how you’re able to stick out in a person memory is a big part of becoming a fan favorite, and Sanzenbacher’s name guaranteed that I’d never forget him.
There’s also an off the field reason to why Sanzenbacher cracked my list of favorites. His four years in the Scarlet and Gray were my first experience of growing with a team, watching them year after year and enjoying all of the ups and downs. I also experienced my first devastating controversy with that same team. Following the 2010 season, it was revealed that five players on Ohio State had sold several of their Big Ten Championship rings, jerseys, gold pants trinkets, and much other exclusive memorabilia they earned in order to get discounts on tattoos, as well as benefits from the parlor owner. What really hurt is that three of those players (Terrelle Pryor, Dan “Boom” Herron, and Devier Posey) were the stars of Ohio St., the guys I looked up to. They were the players I pretended to be during my fantasy football games in my front yard (this a whole other column that I need to expound upon one day). Learning that they could be so childish and immature soured my respect for all of them. That left Dane, who never had the talent of any of those stars, but turned out to be the best Buckeye of them all. He was the prototype three star Ohio kid who got to live his dream as a Buckeye. Those players involved in the scandal took the privilege of being a Buckeye for granted, something Dane would never have done. More than anything, I hope my fellow Ohio State fans didn’t take the Great Dane Sanzenbacher for granted.