Tracy Sprinkle was not invited to the NFL combine. Of course he wasn’t.
In Sprinkle’s career and life, little has come easily. So when the defensive lineman was the only one of 12 nonreturning Ohio State starters not invited to Indianapolis, he was disappointed but shrugged it off as just another chapter in his story.
But Sprinkle, who also wasn’t chosen for the Senior Bowl, also knows that Thursday’s pro day at Ohio State has heightened importance as a result.
“It’s huge for me,” he said.
Sprinkle was a three-star recruit from Elyria who was considered a depth player for most of his Ohio State career. He earned the starting job at nose guard in 2016, only to have his season end when he suffered a torn patellar tendon in his right knee in the opener.
That injury often is career-ending, but Sprinkle attacked rehab and regained his starting spot in 2017. His 16 tackles and three sacks were modest — and probably explains the NFL combine snub — but few nose guards rack up stats.
His teammates appreciated his value.
“You know how people always say the quarterback on the defense is the middle linebacker,” defensive lineman Jalyn Holmes said of his fellow captain. “But I really felt he was the quarterback of not just the defensive line, but the entire defense.”
After Sprinkle’s injury in 2016, Holmes often moved inside as part of the Rushmen package in passing situations, and Sprinkle mentored him.
“He was the person that was getting me right every week for an offensive guard because I was used to going against tackles,” Holmes said. “He’s really been the quarterback of the defense the past two years — even when he didn’t play. He’s a guy who’s been through a lot. Words can’t even really describe how much he’s done for me personally and for everybody.”
Sprinkle has been training in Florida and is eager to show NFL teams he can be a complete defensive lineman, even if he didn’t get a lot of pass-rush opportunities as a Buckeye.
“I want to show how versatile I can be — how strong I am, how quick I am, how explosive I am,” he said.
Sprinkle is an upbeat person by nature, so he hasn’t dwelled on the combine snub.
“I feel like God uses me as an example of the way He works,” he said. “He put me through all these hard things, making me a very strong person, so I can give my wisdom to other people. That’s something I’m doing now.”