The NFL Draft weekend is a bittersweet process for so many young men. While so many are realizing their professional dreams, others play the waiting game and wonder why their name hasn’t been called earlier in the weekend.
For others, it’s more about the questions in the lead-up process. Between on-field testing, interviews, and other arbitrary practices, players often go into draft weekend scratching their heads.
As we covered the 2023 NFL Draft, we had a few special guests. One such guest was former Bengals wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, who recounted his own draft experiences from over a decade ago.
“Yeah, I didn’t have any weird questions—my pre-draft experience was unique and cool,” Sanu told us on 2023 NFL Draft Eve. “The Combine was crazy in itself—I had a lot of different meetings. Like, the meeting with the Patriots was just simple because I had known Coach (Bill) Belichick beforehand.”
In his storied 10-year career (and counting?), Sanu played for Belichick’s Patriots in 2019, after a three-plus year stint with the Falcons. Of course, Sanu parlayed a great rookie output into that lucrative contract, but his career started with the Bengals.
“The meeting with the Bengals was really dope, too,” Sanu continued. “Like, they had to ask me to remember certain colors and numbers and I think I remembered everything but one, if I’m getting it correct. But, it was just a cool experience.”
Longtime Bengals fans will remember that Sanu was selected in the third round of the third rendition of a Marvin Lewis Bengals rebuild. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green came a year before Sanu was drafted to Cincinnati, along with other staples like Dre Kirkpatrick, Marvin Jones, and George Iloka.
But, unfortunately, identity theft and/or trolling were still a thing back in the spring of 2012. Sanu noted that he was sadly teased on draft weekend about being drafted earlier than what was official.
“Like, on my draft day, I got prank calls,” Sanu recalled with us.”I mean, I’m grateful—at least I got prank calls about going to the Bengals, and I ended up getting drafted by the Bengals the next day, which was cool,” Sanu said with a smile.
Public Service Announcement: If you’re the person making these types of calls—stop.
In terms of Sanu being surprised the Bengals took him over a decade ago? Not so much, as they had expressed a lot of interest beforehand.
“Well, I knew they were interested. They were one of the teams that came to visit—Coach Urb (then wide receivers coach James Urban), and we watched film together,” Sanu recalled. “We were just talking football playing catch, and that’s necessarily it, but I knew they were one of the teams that was interested in me.”
As the NFL evolved into a league that prioritized the slot position and what can be done wih certain players, Sanu was an early pioneer. He’s a big guy who made many tough catches across the middle.
And his versatility can’t be overlooked, as we talked about his quarterback prowess skills in the sit-down. Sanu proved to be a vital part of four consecutive playoff appearances in his tenure with the Bengals (2012-2015).
Of course, Sanu joined us courtesy of his Develop Africa endeavor. According to Develop Africa’s Go Fund Me page for the project, one-third of the educated workforce in the country is unqualified. That coupled with a shortage of textbooks, the literacy rate among those aged 15 to 24 fell below 60%.
For those older than 24 years old, it’s actually lower. Many of the issues stem from a devastating civil war that raged from 1991 to 2002, and the West African nation is still struggling to rebuild from the destruction it caused.
Sanu was born in New Jersey but lived in Freetown, Sierra Leone as a young child and has spent time there as an adult. As he noted in the interview, his mother is from the region, and their hearts are with the natives there. Despite the obvious difference between the two countries, Sanu says the people in Sierra Leone are similar to those living in the United States.
Our thanks to Mr. Sanu and his representatives for the sit-down!