By Joe Scalzo
Although he grew up dreaming of playing in the NFL, it wasn’t until Chris Anzevino started all 12 games at center as a freshman at Kent State that he felt his dream was a realistic goal.
“After that year, it started to really set in that I had a shot,” said Anzevino, a Warren Harding High graduate who started all 48 games at center in his college career. “Ever since then, I’ve worked my hardest to make it.”
Still, when last weekend’s NFL draft started, Anzevino knew he wasn’t a cinch to get picked. During Saturday’s final rounds, he talked on and off with the Baltimore Ravens, who told him they were considering drafting him, only to pick Georgia defensive tackle DeAngelo Tyson with their only pick of the seventh round.
“After the draft, I talked to a couple other teams but the Ravens were really the most interested,” said Anzevino. “So that’s why I signed [a free agent contract] with them.”
At the same time, the Ravens were signing his college roommate, Cardinal Mooney’s Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, to a free agent deal. (“Ish is my boy,” Anzevino said.) Mooney grad Desmond Marrow (Toledo) signed a free agent deal with Houston, while Canfield’s Sean Baker (Ball State) earned a tryout with Tampa Bay.
While the odds are against undrafted free agents making an NFL roster, dozens beat those odds every year. According to NFL.com, 59 undrafted free agents were on Week 1 rosters last season. And, according to the website MockingTheDraft.com, after first and second round picks, the largest group of players in the 2011 Pro Bowl was undrafted free agents.
Last season, Youngstown State cornerback Brandian Ross made the Packers’ practice squad, despite not signing with the team until late July due to the NFL lockout. And in 2010, Mooney safety Kyle McCarthy (Broncos) and YSU wide receiver Donald Jones (Bills) made NFL rosters after signing as undrafted free agents.
“It’s a dream come true but I know this is only the beginning,” said Anzevino, who thanked Jesus, his parents and the LeCharles Bentley O-Line Academy for “giving me the opportunity to be where I’m at.”
He was also grateful to be part of the Harding NFL tradition.
Four former Raiders played in the NFL last season, including Ravens linebacker Prescott Burgess (who is now a free agent). Another Raider, Ohio State running back Dan Herron, was drafted in the sixth round by the Bengals on Saturday.
“I feel honored to be from Warren,” Anzevino said. “It’s my hometown and I’ll do anything I can to show support to the city of Warren and to Warren Harding.”