Remember the cruel prank call that Mohamed Sanu received during the first round of the NFL draft from someone pretending to be from the Bengals?
Well, Sanu’s phone was blowing up again after Thursday’s win in Atlanta, but this time the calls were appreciated as friends and family reached out to congratulate him on his touchdown catch against the Falcons.
“I got something like 70 to 80 text messages,” Sanu told me. “Everybody was happy for me and just saying, ‘Keep up the good work, and keep working hard.’ It feels good to know that you have a lot of people pulling for you and supporting you. I just want to thank everybody back home.”
The 12-yard touchdown catch (you can watch it here) was Sanu’s second reception of the game and his first TD in NFL preseason action. The pass was thrown by seven-year veteran Bruce Gradkowski who also tossed A.J. Green’s first regular season touchdown grab in week one at Cleveland last year.
“It was a beautiful pass by Bruce and I was in the right place at the right time,” said Sanu. “He put it where it needed to be and I went up and made the play.”
“A.J. said, ‘You like throwing the young receivers their first touchdown pass don’t you?’” Gradkowski said after Thursday’s win. “I just laughed. Those young guys do a great job. Mohamed and Marvin Jones are doing a great job as rookies and we have a lot of talent at receiver.”
The emergence of Sanu and Jones obviously played a role in Friday’s release of Jordan Shipley. Jones has hauled in catches of 40-plus yards in each of the Bengals two preseason games, and Sanu’s ability to play multiple spots gives the Bengals a solid compliment to slot receiver Andrew Hawkins.
“Hawkins right now is our inside guy,” said offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. “But you’re going to need more than one. He gets gassed sometimes. He’s up and down on the kickoffs, he’s on punt return, and we need another one and a different body type. That’s Sanu – he’s a great fit.”
“It’s up to coach to figure out where he can use me the best, and I’ll play whatever he wants me to play,” said Sanu. “I have to step up to make sure that I help this team in any way possible. If they need me to play inside, I’m definitely happy to play inside and I’m going to do everything that I can to be the best that I can be.”
Last year, the former Rutgers star made 115 receptions to shatter Larry Fitzgerald’s Big East record of 92, but a poor 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine (4.67 seconds) caused some scouts to question Sanu’s NFL prospects. Mohamed ran much faster at Rutgers’ Pro Day (4.41 and 4.48), and the Bengals grabbed him in the third round.
“Here’s what the Bengals are getting,” Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood told me recently at Big East Media Day. “They’re getting an elite-level character person first. I said this before the draft to a number of NFL people that asked me questions about Mohamed: ‘I’m telling you right now that for all the reasons you love Ray Rice, you’re going to say the same things about Mohamed Sanu in a couple of years.’ I think the Bengals are really going to love the person and I think they are going to be excited about what he can do for them on Sundays. And I think he’s going to be a positive part of that community for a long time to come.”
“The Bengals got a steal in the third round,” said Sanu’s former Rutgers teammate Mark Harrison. “They are getting an animal, a monster, and a go-getter. He is just an awesome guy with a great personality and he knows how to attack that ball.”
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