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Tracy Sprinkle: 'I love Elyria'

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    The Ohio State University wide receiver Kato Mitchell, of Cleveland, autographs a fan's poster with teammates Jeff Greene, center, Tracy Sprinkle, right, of Elyria, and Jason Cotton, not pictured, were signing autographs for Buckeye football fans at Midway Mall Saturday afternoon.

    ANNA NORRIS / CHRONICLE

  • FA-SprinkleOSUautograph01-JPG

    The Ohio State University 2017 defensive line captain and Elyria native Tracy Sprinkle, left, signs Ohio State football memorabilia for fans at Midway Mall Saturday afternoon along with team members Kato Mitchell, Jeff Greene and Jason Cotton.

    ANNA NORRIS / CHRONICLE

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ELYRIA — A multitude of NFL Draft scenarios await Tracy Sprinkle this week.

Right now, he just wants to give back to his hometown.

The former Ohio State and Elyria High standout came back home again Saturday, signing autographs for dozens of fans at Midway Mall. The support from his hometown has definitely helped during a pivotal life moment.

“The support in Elyria, Ohio, has always been there for me,” Sprinkle said. “I’ve been raised here and my whole life I’ve been playing football here. To see these guys come out and support me has been great.”

Where Sprinkle winds up playing professionally is anyone’s guess, but there’s a chance he could land with his hometown team. The Browns have nine selections — more than most teams — and Sprinkle said they were one of two teams he worked out for, the second being the Houston Texans.

He’s said earlier that representatives from the Eagles, Colts and Broncos had been in contact with him. Everything will come into focus after the draft, which begins Thursday and runs through Saturday.

“I’m just playing it even keel right now,” Sprinkle said. “Wherever I land at, I’m definitely going to make an impact for the team. I’ve just been working out and trying to keep my mind off of it so I can stay focused and be ready when my number is called.”

If he gets selected, it will likely come on the third day — somewhere in rounds four through seven. And if he’s not drafted he’ll likely draw interest as an undrafted free agent from a number of teams.

Look at the numbers, and it’s pretty clear why.

His fifth and final year with Ohio State was his best. Bouncing back from a knee injury that robbed him of all but the opening quarter of his 2016 season, he was named co-captain in 2017 and started 12 games on a talented defensive line.

Sprinkle totaled 16 tackles, three for loss, with a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry. He played a key role in limiting a high-powered USC offense in Ohio State’s 24-7 Cotton Bowl victory — his final game as a Buckeye. While Sprinkle didn’t record a tackle, he was credited with a quarterback hurry against USC quarterback Sam Darnold, who could be the Browns’ choice as the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

Stopping the run is Sprinkle’s specialty, and powerful USC running back Ronald Jones II — another top NFL Draft prospect — was limited to just 69 yards after averaging 119.2 per game against OSU. The Trojans averaged 185.1 yards rushing per game, but Sprinkle and Co. held them to just 57.

Regardless of how his NFL opportunity happens, Sprinkle is trying to keep his focus on the big picture.

“It’s a blessing,” he said. “I’ve been playing football since the second grade and I’ve always dreamed of doing something like this. This whole process is a great blessing. I just can’t wait to get it on.”

Past Ohio State football players James Cotton, Jeff Greene and Kato Mitchell joined Sprinkle at Saturday’s event. All the proceeds from the autographs went toward Buck-Icon LLC’s community outreach services, which includes a football camp for children with special needs and underprivileged youths.

Sprinkle’s been spending a lot of time giving back to his hometown, highlighted by an appearance at the Elyria Mini Pioneers conditioning camp. At the event, he was honored with the Ambassador Brothers of Lorain County’s Hometown Hero award. In its second year, the award recognizes an Elyria native for his success.

“I just love Elyria,” Sprinkle said. “It’s my hometown, so I just wanted to come back and find a way to give back before the draft. This was a great opportunity to do it.”

Contact Chris Sweeney at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com and follow him @CSweeneyCT on Twitter.


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