You can call him “Sanzendinger,” or just “Dinger,” as the Bears’ training staff does.
Or you can call him “Sanzenwhacker,” as some members of the media did in training camp when he first started to establish himself as a legitimate player.
But, now that the 53-man roster has been set, you can call Dane Sanzenbacher (Sahnz-en-bocker) a Chicago Bear.
As far as the nicknames, he’s already heard just about everything.
“Basically they just all come off of the slaughtering of my last name, and whatever they can get out of that is what we go with,” the undrafted rookie from Ohio State said. “Sanzendinger; I don’t even know where that comes from.”
At least it’s more original than “Great Dane.”
“There’s always that one,” he said, “but it’s kind of played out I guess.”
Despite his lowly status as an undrafted rookie and his lack of stature, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound receiver worked his way up the depth chart early in training camp. He gained the confidence of coaches by learning all three of the team’s wideout positions (X, Y and Z) without the benefit of minicamps, OTAs or any kind of off-season program.
“When you’re going into a college situation, you study the playbook hard because you want to get in there,” he said. “But in the back of your mind, you always have that cushion, ‘Well, I have four years here.’
“But, when you come in here, we didn’t have any (off-season program), so you’re right into camp and it’s like, ‘Well, I better go learn it now or there might not be a tomorrow.’”
Even before he caught 10 preseason passes for 107 yards, Sanzenbacher made his presence felt during training camp practices with precision routes and sure hands.
He also gained the confidence of quarterback Jay Cutler as he earned some practice reps with the first team and some praise from the No. 1 QB, who wasn’t hesitant to target him.
“Jay’s been great this whole time,” Sanzenbacher said. “He’s been one of those guys who was definitely more patient than I would even expect coming in, for a guy to treat a rookie. It’s been great. When you do get the opportunity to get in there with the first team, to know that the quarterback has that confidence in you, it helps out a lot.”
With Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, Johnny Knox, Roy Williams and Sam Hurd locked in, there was just one additional roster spot available at wide receiver when camp started, and Sanzenbacher quickly became the favorite.
After being passed over in the draft, Sanzenbacher had several offers around the league, but he appears to have chosen correctly.
“It was just a gut decision,” he said. “There were other options out there and we entertained them all. But Chicago was a place that we knew even pre-draft that might be a good destination for me. I wanted to go to a place like this.”
The competition for a roster spot wasn’t foreign to Sanzenbacher considering his experience at perennial powerhouse Ohio State.
“When you’re at a university like Ohio State, you know that every year they’re going to bring in the top recruits in the country, the best guys, and they’re trying to take your job,” he said. “So in every camp you have to compete for that job, and that’s been able to transfer over here.”
Regardless of how you say it, Sanzenbacher came out on top in this competition.
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