Boren Willing to Do Whatever it Takes
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — If the NFL drafted on toughness, tenacity, versatility and leadership, Zach Boren might have be one of the first players to hear his named called Thursday night.
Photo by Dan Harker
He also might have been one of the highest-rated players in his recruiting class. But Boren wasn’t gifted with the measurables most NFL teams are looking for this weekend.
He isn’t 6-6 like Tyler Eifert, the Notre Dame tight end who went 21st overall to the Cincinnati Bengals. He doesn’t run a 4.6 40 like LSU’s Barkevious Mingo and Oregon’s Dion Jordan, two of the first six players off the board during the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
If Boren had those measurables, he would have been a lock to become the first Ohio State player selected in the first round of the draft since Cam Heyward went to the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 31st overall pick back in 2011.
Even Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, another player known for his toughness and leadership, did not hear his name called during the first round of the draft on Thursday night. The good news for Te’o is that he will, eventually, get to fulfill his dream of being selected in the NFL Draft.
He could very well be one of the first players taken in Friday night’s second round, but even if he falls to the third or fourth round, Te’o will have an opportunity to play football professionally at the next level.
Photo by Jim Davidson
That may or may not be true for Boren. At 5-11 and 240 pounds, Boren is not the prototypical NFL linebacker. In fact, he wasn’t even a prototypical college linebacker. Although he was Ohio's Defensive Player of the Year as a senior at Pickerington Central, Boren was considered too small to play linebacker at a place like Ohio State.
He came in as a fullback four years ago, but Boren finally got to live out his dream of playing linebacker during the second half of his senior season in Columbus.
“To be honest, it was a dream come true to play linebacker. I came here wanting to play linebacker and I had no problem switching over,” he told The-Ozone.net.
“I had so much fun and I wish I had another year to play linebacker, but I wouldn’t change anything. We went 12-0 and I’ll remember this season for the rest of my life.”
After making the switch before the Indiana game midway through the season, Boren may have been Ohio State’s defensive MVP over the final six games of the season. He finished with 50 tackles, and his presence at middle linebacker helped to solidify an OSU defense that had largely been a disappointment for most of Urban Meyer’s first season as the head coach.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Boren was also a pretty good fullback for the Buckeyes. He started for three-and-a-half seasons before he played a single down of linebacker at Ohio State, but switching back to the offensive side of the ball for the next level wasn’t as easy as it might sound.
“The hardest part was when I first started training,” he said back in March.
“At first it was a little weird coming out of the backfield, but I’m used to it now.”
With a 4.9 40 and a 32-inch vertical, Boren simply lacks the elite athleticism to make up for his small stature at the next level. Zach's father, Mike, was a standout linebacker at Michigan who had a potential NFL career thwarted by a knee injury during his senior season in Ann Arbor.
Zach’s brother, Justin, was signed by the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent after two years as a starting guard at Ohio State. He transferred to Columbus from Michigan after Rich Rodriguez was hired to replace Lloyd Carr in Ann Arbor.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Justin Boren was activated by the Ravens during the 2011-12 playoffs, but he spent last season on the Detroit Lions’ practice squad before signing with Denver to a futures contract in January.
It’s possible a team might decide to take a flyer on little brother Zach – their little brother Jacoby is a sophomore center at Ohio State – with a late-round draft pick, but even his versatility may not be enough to help him overcome some of his physical shortcomings.
That’s all right with Zach, who has been in this position before. People told him he was too slow and too small to play at Ohio State and he proved them wrong time and time again.
“Whatever happens in the NFL happens. I know I’ll get a shot, no matter what it is, as a free agent or whatever,” he said.
“Once you get to camp, it’s all about making your name and competing. I don’t have any problem doing that, so not getting drafted because of a position switch doesn’t bother me.”
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