Having been one of the faces of Ohio State’s football program for the much of the past four years, Zach Boren probably should feel like he’s in unfamiliar territory.
After going undrafted in April’s NFL draft, Boren quickly signed free agent contract with the Houston Texans and now must preform well enough during the team’s preseason camp to officially make the roster.
His current situation is a far cry from his status as an Ohio State captain a year ago, but it is one Boren is quick to remind he’s overcome before.
“I don’t think it is a different mind-set because I know when I was coming out of high school that I was doubted by a lot of people,” Boren said. “A lot of people thought I didn’t belong here, and I had to come in show people that I could play. It is kind of the same thing with the NFL.
“Going undrafted and everything, people don’t really believe in you. You have to go in and fight, so it is nothing I am not used to and it is kind of the way I always play. I always play with a chip on my shoulder and I think that gives me the personality I do out on the field.”
Rated by Scout.com as the No. 45 middle linebacker in the 2009 recruiting class, Boren remembers the assertion that he was issued a scholarship offer to Ohio State simply as a favor to his older brother Justin, who had just transferred into the program from Michigan.
Though bothered by chatter of that sort, the former three-star prospect from Pickerington (Ohio) Central came to Ohio State ready to prove that he was a lot more than a throw-in. Boren switched to fullback his freshman season, then went on to be one of the most valuable pieces on the Buckeyes’ roster for much of his career.
His career culminated last season with a surprising move from fullback to linebacker for the final six games of Ohio State’s season, and despite not playing that position since high school he was one of the most impactful defenders on the team.
Now signed with the Texans and back at fullback, Boren hopes his versatility from college will make him more apt to make a professional roster.
“It’s hard. It’s a grind 24/7,” Boren said. “When I first came (to Ohio State), it is kind of one of those things where you’re a freshman and you want to show the older guys what you can and you have to take that same attitude into making an NFL roster.
“You have to show up early, you have to be there late and you have to put in as much time as possible to learn the new system. And then when you’re out on the field, you have to be the first guy in line, first one to finish. It is one of those things where you just got to go 110 percent all the time.”
Boren narrowed it down to five NFL teams before the draft, but he came to a gentleman’s agreement with Houston during the seventh round. Before signing with the Texans, Boren reached out to former OSU receiver DeVier Posey, who informed the fullback that Houston would be the perfect fit.
"DeVier just said that they need a fullback," Boren said. "They run a big, two-back system offense and they lost their fullback from last year and said ti was a good situation and told me what I wanted to hear.”
With only two fullbacks on their current roster, Boren sees an opportunity to make the team. He’ll compete with nine-year veteran Greg Jones and Tyler Clutts, who has made a name for himself on special teams.
Boren is hoping to be the next play to open holes for Texans running back Arian Foster, who has emerged as one of the best players in the NFL after he too went undrafted out of Tennessee in 2009.
“I’m ready,” said Boren, who be accompanied in camp by fellow former OSU defensive backs Orhian Johnson and Travis Howard. “I have been waiting a long time to get to an NFL team and it is kind of your time to go to work and your time to shine. I am excited about it, but a little nervous, too, because I don’t really know what to expect. But it should be a fun process.”
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